Movie Review – Toy Story 3 (2010)
by HELEN GEIB
Woody, Buzz, and the gang are back for more adventures and, at the last, to bid farewell in Toy Story 3. Their owner Andy is all grown up now and headed off to college. Although intended for the attic, the toys- the favorites, the ones who have survived the yard sales and spring cleanings- mistakenly end up being donated to the local daycare. On the surface, Sunnyside is toy heaven, an idyllic place where toys are played with every day. However, the reality behind the sparkling facade is a gulag ruled by a malevolent dictator. Our toys must break out if they are to be reunited with Andy and, of greater urgency, escape destruction at the hands of rambunctious toddlers.
Toy Story 3 again demonstrates Pixar’s facility with complex storytelling. (It was directed by Pixar veteran Lee Unkrich, co-director of Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo, and co-written by Unkrich, Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine), Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, and Andrew Stanton, who has six Pixar film writing credits.) It merges drama, comedy, adventure, and moral instruction. It is a worthy follow-up to Toy Story and Toy Story 2 and like its predecessors, can be enjoyed by audiences of every age.
If any one element dominates, it is the adventure. The film is fast moving and action packed. The toys are under almost constant threat of death, or at least mauling, which leads to several and varied breakouts, rescues, and foiled attempts at same. Some of the action bits are quite comical, especially in the group’s great escape from Sunnyside, while others are dramatic, even intensely so. The action climax is a lengthy, exciting, finally nerve-wracking sequence at the municipal incinerator that pushes the limits of young child appropriateness when our beloved toys resign themselves to imminent death. (Right before their providential rescue- in case you were worried.)
The drama and moral instruction arise out of the toys’ responses to Andy’s outgrowing them. Woody must accept that change brings new possibilities as well as loss, while the others struggle to overcome their feelings of abandonment and betrayal. This is all quite reminiscent of Jessie the cowgirl’s storyline in Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3 does tread on familiar ground in this and other parts, reprising themes and situations from the first two installments. However for the most part, the film’s fast pace and light touch, along with some clever variations on the old and known keep it from feeling stale.
A good example is what happens when Sunnyside’s evil ruler and his flunkies re-set Buzz’s switch so he thinks he’s on a space mission again. In trying to put him back the way he was, his friends accidentally set Buzz to Spanish mode, which in turn unleashes his inner Latin Lover. It’s all wonderfully funny, arguably the best part of the film. It also ties in with another of the lessons, the one emphasizing the importance of imaginative play. Andy’s spiritual successor is a delightful little girl with an unbounded imagination. In the world of the film, being played with by a child like her is a toy’s greatest happiness. Spanish mode is Buzz’s play-acting and emotional liberation; it frees him from his inarticulateness and to sweep Jessie into a joyous tango.
The script and animation are filled with comedy. Just about every toy character gets to shine in some funny bit and the visual jokes fly by so fast it’s quite literally hard to catch them all. A lot of the credit for how funny the film is, and just generally how good and enjoyable it is, goes to the voice cast. The principal voice cast returns in the third film and are as good as they were in the first two (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris). Michael Keaton joins the franchise as a Ken instantly smitten with Andy’s little sister’s discarded Barbie (“No one here understands about clothes, Barbie!”). Ned Beatty is wickedly funny as the pink stuffed bear, gloriously unrepentant to the last, who rules Sunnyside with an iron paw.
The 3-D effects in Toy Story 3 are muted and primarily used to create an illusion of depth of focus. With so much else to pay attention to, and so little to draw attention to the 3-D effects, it’s easy to forget that the film is even in 3-D. Toy Story 3 looks great in 3-D, but no doubt it looks great in 2-D too.
3 1/2 stars
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