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June 27, 2010


Movie Review – Toy Story 3 (2010)


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


Possibly Related Posts: (Commentary Track generated)

Commentary Track review of Toy Story 3 by Nir Shalev.

Review of Ratatouille

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nir Shalev
    Jun 27 2010

    The first full length 3D movie I saw in theatres was The Polar Express, which worked great in 3D but after Alice in Wonderland (2010) I vowed to never do that again. I watched Toy Story 3 in glorious 2D and was glad to have done so because a headache would probably have ensued.

    This movie is easily one of the year’s best and will probably stay that way in my top 10 list, if I ever get to make one for this year.
    So far this year’s been dryer than a desert.

  2. Helen
    Jun 28 2010

    I’ve seen a bunch of great movies in the theater this year, but most were 2009 foreign releases cycling through the US arthouse circuit in 2010: Red Cliff, Police Adjective, The Secret in Their Eyes, A Prophet, The Secret of Kells, Warlords, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3 are the best Hollywood films of 2010 to date.

  3. Nir Shalev
    Jun 28 2010

    I’m not a huge fan of “How To Train Your Dragon”… Jay Baruchel’s voice is truly annoying and the film lacked a real “umph!”. Plus, it was very gray and, I thought, unappealing. However, a sequel had already been announced while it was still playing in theatres.
    I like “Splice” and “Toy Story 3” from the “actual” 2010 releases.

  4. Aaron Ploof
    Jul 4 2010

    I’m glad to see this review is up, Helen!

  5. Nir Shalev
    Jul 4 2010

    I forgot to mention that “The Ghost Writer” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” as my two fave movies of 2010, so far.

  6. Sep 14 2011

    This was the best movie ever. I agree with the reviewer who said Toy Story is the best trilogy, in that all movies are equally great, with part 3 being the best. In fact, apart from Cars 2, Pixar has never disappointed. The only part I wish they’d stay away from is 3D. The movie looks GREAT in 2D and retains the brightness that 3D can never provide.

  7. Sep 14 2011

    Ironically, The Illusionist was last year’s best animated film, by far but this one is still an amazing film.

  8. Sep 14 2011

    We aren’t 3D fans here at Commentary Track either. Pixar films didn’t feel like they were missing anything before 3D came along and it doesn’t feel like you’re missing anything when you watch “Up” or “Toy Story 3” in 2D.

  9. Sep 14 2011

    As a matter of fact, even though those specific Pixar film are constructed and animated in 3D, adding the, technically, 4th dimention takes away some of the brightness of the picture and the polarized glasses make the film look even darker. So I feel sorry for anyone who watched Up or Toy Story 3 in the theatres in 3D.

    And yup, we all absolutely hate 3D on Commentary Track. :O)