Toy Story 3 Directed by: Lee Unkrich Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Don Rickles Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: G Release Date: June 18, 2010
PLOT: With their 17-year-old owner Andy moving off to college, the toys are brought to a daycare in hopes of finding new adventures and friends.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Any human being who has a shard of their childhood still remaining in their souls. It’s fair to say that if you never loved anything when you were a boy or girl that Toy Story 3 may not be your immediate source of happiness. But for everyone else on the planet, there’s no point in robbing your heart of this universally pleasing experience by missing it. If it’s any indication that this movie has no age-limit, the seasoned critics were laughing more boisterously than the army of children at my screening.
EXPECTATIONS: Having not seen Toy Story or Toy Story 2 recently, I went into this three-quel with little perspective, and instead a willingness to tackle this film on its own level. Jokes about instant messaging in the trailer had me slightly worried that this would bring out the awful, disappointingly uncreative side of Pixar only really experienced in their junkiest creation ever, Cars.
Tom Hanks as Woody: As a vehement Andy loyalist, the cowboy toy is constantly trying to get back into the possession of his branding owner. Because of this, his presence in this third movie is less funny than it is full of action. The toys around him, even those with a decently smaller list of dialogue, upstage him when it comes to being apart of jokes. Woody nevertheless still remains central to the story’s heart. Score: 8
Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear: His ego is still worth a laugh or three, especially when he is activated into a relatively uncommon “serious” mode in the second act. A twist with his suit’s mechanics turns his dialect into Spanish, something that is certainly funny, but was originally hilarious when dog-character Dug did the same thing last year in the film also by Pixar, Up. Score: 8
Ned Beatty as Lotso: The toy that once had the name “Lotso Huggin’ Bear” is now an intimidating tyrant ruling over an oppressive world of toys. Though he’s wheeled around by a Tonka truck and still smells like strawberries, the audience gasped serial-killer level shrieks when he suddenly popped onto screen a few times. How many toys, never mind animated characters, can one even name that can achieve such a menacing presence? Score: 8
Michael Keaton and Don Rickles as Ken and Mr. Potato Head, and other toys: Even if the characters appear to have only one comedic note (for example, Mr. Potato Head is detachable), Pixar finds plenty of ways to create various authentic jokes out of simple personalities. The same can be said for the sassy Ken, who steals scenes. Though, just like buzz, some of his humor isn’t that fresh. Haven’t we already laughed before about Ken’s flamboyant tendencies? Score: 9
TALKING: Even the toys with only a few lines are brought to fresh comedic life by a slew of recognizable voices. Making an appearance are Richard Kind, R. Lee Ermey, Jeff Garlin, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, and Whoopi Goldberg, and many others. Score: 8
SIGHTS: An epic scene in the relatively morbid third act involving a landfill has to go down with the water of Finding Nemo as one of Pixar’s best visual achievements. Of course, the attention to detail doesn’t slack in any other area of the movie, as the life of a toy is created with thorough story engineering (how does a toy escape a daycare?). As for 3-D, it's not necessary. Toy Story 3 would be equally gorgeous if it were playing inside a tin box (but thankfully, it is not). Score: 10
SOUNDS: Randy Newman’s amicable music is back with more tunes to warm the ageless atmosphere created by the Toy Story aesthetic. His now-classic “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” is given a slightly spicier update when performed with rushing Spanish guitars and vocals, but it's still as effective. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: At times the cleverness of Toy Story 3 can be almost overwhelming (this is a good thing). The big escape from the daycare is the sharpest of all moments, and possibly the funniest.
ENDING: The heavily dreaded conclusion to the Toy Story saga is not as perfect as it should be. Having keg-stand-bound Andy play with toys right before heading off into college is a bit contrived, though the beginning of the sequence does bring back some sharp Up-like emotional intensities. During the credits we watch the toys have their own fun in a light epilogue that does not offer the emotional bookend that some would have Pixar would have chosen. The last frame in the Toy Story franchise is that of an upside down Jesse with a rose in her mouth. Considering the laughs and tears we may have released over these toys, it doesn’t ring true as the best finale.
QUESTIONS: Pixar makes story composition seem easy. But how many script rewrites did this Toy Story go through? Also, haven’t the toys moved places enough in Andy’s life for him to at least consider the fact that his house is maybe haunted? It's also curious that toys can speak in a pitch only dogs can hear.
REWATCHABILITY: Parents, here is another shining light of greatness for those of you who are usually stuck watching the same three movies over and over with your seed. You might even enjoy it more than them. As for me, a person with no obligation to ever see this movie again, I look forward to getting back into the Toy Story world as soon as I can.
If the work of Pixar Animation Studios were a living organism, what would that creature look like? Would it resemble some form of Andy, the earnest toy wrangler at the center of all of the Toy Story plots? Or how about Remy, the brilliant Blue Rat That Could from Ratatouille, who navigated the difficult territory of a kitchen by using creative engineering? Or how even the obviously named just Mr. Incredible? I say neither. With another brilliant movie-going experience, Pixar has proven that it resembles no form we’ve ever seen before. But if you put on your Mickey Mouse ears imagination caps, try to picture this: an old-fashioned middle-aged mage who seems to understand everything about the human condition, but can be found most of the time picking up random objects and imaging where they have been, where they are, and where they are going (Pete Docter?)
If anyone has figured out the anti-formula to enchanting its mainstream audience, it’s Pixar. Their stories avoid clichés with such aggressive left turns that it could be argued they don’t even know what a “cliché” even is. From the door-chase in Monster's Inc. to the multi-rat kitchen scurrying in Ratatouille, Pixar have shown a near-genius talent in the field of small-world engineering. Part of the jaw-dropping experience recurring throughout their films is watching how the creators defy gravity with their boundless imagination, and how any item or location can be assigned multiple locations. The grade-A animation we see in their films, now in 3-D, is just the beginning.
With Toy Story 3, not only do Pixar succeed in bringing toys to life in the ways that only witches could dream of, but their flowing creativity is channeled towards making them brilliant, heartfelt creations that appear more human than most of the billboard-friendly faces we see weekly at the cinema. Like real human beings, these toys never collect emotional dust, nor can they resign to a one-color simplicity.
It is only then fitting, as this trilogy draws to a close with a sweet but “transitional” note, that we feel the authentic ache in our heart, the chill down our spine, or the tear down our eye. We have loved these toys, or these clear mirrors of our youthfulness, as if they were our own.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10