Saturday, July 17, 2010

Toy Story 3 (2010)


Has it really been 15 years since “Toy Story” came out in theaters and revealed to the world that computer animation could be used to tell a feature length story? IMDB is saying it’s true. Is there a point to making another movie, other than to fatten Pixar’s and Disney’s wallet?


Young Andy (John Morris) is getting ready to head off to college. His playmates lay in his old toy chest all but forgotten, and yet Andy still can’t part with them. Eventually he decides to put the toys in the attic, except for Woody (Tom Hanks) who will join him at college. But a mishap ends with the toys heading out to Sunnyside Daycare. At first this doesn’t seem so bad, at least they’ll get played with. But it becomes apparent that the daycare is a prison for the toys, and that they must escape or end up destroyed by toddlers. But if they do make it out, where will they go? After all if a toy isn’t being played with, what good is it? Find out the answer in “Toy Story 3”.

Good Points:

  • The animation and voice acting are top notch
  • The story is a logical and entertaining continuation of the first two tales
  • Achieves a surprisingly poignant conclusion

Bad Points:

  • The 3D was well integrated but not needed
  • Some of the story elements are obvious recycles from the previous two films
  • The ending may push some viewers a little too hard


I’ve doubted Pixar in the past, but they have yet to make a movie I don’t like. “Toy Story 3” is just as good as the previous two films, but has a darker tone to it. This gives it a greater impact at the end, one that may be a bit overblown, but is very effective. There are still plenty of laughs and thrills to enjoy. All your favorite characters and some new ones are on hand to make a very entertaining film, and maybe one of Pixar’s best yet.

Scores (out of 5)

Visual: 5

Sound: 5

Music: 4

Acting: 4

Script: 4

Direction: 4

Entertainment: 5

Total: 5

In Depth

“Toy Story 3” hits all the right notes. It’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s exciting, it’s funny and it’s sad. Yeah, you heard me; this movie’s got a real melancholy vibe to it. I’m not sure if younger viewers will catch this, they’ll see the sunny ending and feel that the toys are safe and happy. Heck, I keep telling myself the same thing. But the adult in me felt the sense of loss, knowing you’ve left childhood behind. Andy’s moved on and has to say goodbye. Most of us have had to do this at one time or another. This film captures that feeling and nails it, making it one of the few movies to actually move me to tears in the theater. Oh, I’m a cynic most of the time – but when it comes to animation, I can be a softy.

Speaking of animation, this is some of the best work Pixar’s done. Each movie really pushes the envelope of what they can pull off. While this doesn’t have the aggressive detail of “Wall-e” it does a great job of pulling the colors, movement and style of the previous Toy Story films and improving them. Take a look at the scenes with Lotso (Ned Beatty). His fur is amazing, looking just like plush that has been well used over the years.

Another stand out element is the action. There is an amazing amount of fluidity to the movement, especially in scenes where cameras angle around toys in motion over a background in motion. This was also done to great affect in the finale of “Toy Story 2” at the airport. The gut wrenching finale action sequence in the junkyard is amazing to see. Pixar still can’t be topped in this department.

A word about the 3D, it’s not necessary. It’s well done, and never distracts from the film. I was never wowed by it. This movie will play just as well without the 3D and the colors will probably look a bit sharper too.

The sound work is as good as it’s always been. All the toys have distinctive sound effects that accompany them. In addition the key element of background noise is perfect, pulling you into the world that’s been created.

Randy Newman who provided the score for the first two films returns for the third. He does a great job with the score, building moments and keeping things fun. For moments when Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is reset into his Spanish-speaking mode, Newman injects a flamenco beat into the score. His song, “You’ve got a Friend in Me” is utilized throughout the score and even played with lyrics a couple times. He even provides a new song for the end credits. I’m not a huge fan of his vocal style or his songs, but fans should enjoy what they get here.

The cast of Toy Story started out pretty big and it’s increased with each movie. Each actor brings the characters to life perfectly. Of course everyone knows and loves Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz. But Joan Cusack is excellent as Jessie the cowgirl and nearly steals the scenes she’s in. New characters include Ned Beatty as the deceptively cuddly Lotso (hugs Bear), Michael Keaton as Ken to Jodi Benson’s Barbie. Timothy Dalton provides the voice for the classically trained actor Mr. Pricklepants – a hedgehog. And Blake Clark joins the group as the voice of Slinky Dog taking over for the late Jim Varney. I want to give each actor a plug, but seriously they all do a great job. It takes effective voice acting to make an emotional ending work, and they pull it off easily.

The basic story takes the premise of “Toy Story 2” and reverses it. So instead of Woody being captured by a toy collected and being rescued by the other toys, the other toys captured at the daycare and Woody has to stage the rescue. Even the finale action set piece with the moving conveyer belts and dangerous enemy toy scheming against our heroes is very similar. It’s the added element of Andy being an adult and making a decision about the toys that drives the whole plot and the emotional climax of the film. The previous two films were focused on friendship too, but more on the friendship between the toys. This element of ending friendships looms over the whole story from the beginning and gives this movie a different tone. It feels like a natural continuation of the first two stories and it’s true climax. The only thing that really seems to be lacking is the snappy one-liners the first two films had. The movie also assumes you’ve seen the first two films. Many of the relationships and jokes rest on events the occurred in those movies.

The whole package is executed with great skill. Director Lee Unkrich keeps all the elements flowing at once. He executes the action and comedy with perfect timing. The movie never loses momentum, or bogs down in sentimentality until the end. I found the ending to be very effective, but I was also very conscious that it was getting a little manipulative. Some viewers may not understand why the farewell scene is dragging on so long. I loved it, but I also loved the multiple endings of “Return of the King”. For some, the end might be a slight misstep.

I was surprised by this movie. I knew I’d enjoy it. I really enjoyed the first two films. I also knew there was going to be a bit different from those films. I wasn’t sure how that element would work in the final analysis. When it’s all said and done, the movie is great, providing a well-rounded experience of fun and fantasy with a touch of sadness. If you’ve seen the first two films and enjoyed them, then this is a must see.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a big fan of the Randy Newman sound either, but his lyrics often are clever, enough so that I have 4 albums on vinyl. The sardonic numbers tend not to be on movie soundtracks.