California Literary Review

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

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June 19th, 2010 at 11:21 am

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Movie Poster: Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich
Screenplay by Michael Arndt and John Lasseter

Tom Hanks as Woody (voice)
Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear (voice)
Joan Cusack as Jessie (voice)
Ned Beatty as Lotso (voice)
Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head (voice)
Michael Keaton as Ken (voice)

CLR Rating: ★★★★☆

Movie Still: Toy Story 3

Jessie (Joan Cusack), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Woody (Tom Hanks)
in Toy Story 3

©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.


Pixar Has Another Winner:
‘Toy Story 3′ Is a Fantastic Family Film

Pixar Animation Studios strutted into the hearts of moviegoers everywhere with the click of Woody’s bootheels and the pew-pew of Buzz Lightyear’s laserbeams in 1995’s Toy Story. Since then, the studio has made nary a mishap (with the possible exception of Cars, which was hit-or-miss but charming nonetheless). The latest addition to the Pixar stable, Toy Story 3, is no different: from start to finish, it’s a near-perfect family film.

Have you ever wondered what toys do when you leave them lying on the floor in the dark? The creative geniuses at Pixar did, and it was good. The world was introduced to Andy’s toys with the first Toy Story. Plush-and-plastic cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) spouts generic lines like “There’s a snake in my boot” when you pull the cord in his back. Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), a spaceman from Star Command with working wings and LCD lasers, has a voice all his own. A supporting cast including piggybank Hamm (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog (originally voiced by the late Jim Varney, replaced in Toy Story 3 by Blake Clark), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex the dinosaur, and a trio of claw machine aliens, scuttled, hopped, and sprang into our hearts in the first and second films.

The inimitable, irrepressible toys are back for a third film, and they’re up to all new antics. Lest we forget, fifteen years have passed since the first movie, and little Andy is seventeen and headed off to college. As we all know, when you’re seventeen any reminder of your childhood is an insult, so when Andy’s mom harangues him to donate his toys, he calls them “junk” but secretly plans to keep them in the attic. Things go awry, and the crew of toys ends up at Sunnyside Day Care Center, which seems like heaven on earth…until the toddlers arrive. The toys soon learn Sunnyside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and plan an escape.

Somehow or other, the animators and writers at Pixar manage to make even the most mundane objects fascinating, lovely, hilarious, and even terrifying. Those of us in our mid-twenties may remember how horrific the Frankentoys from Toy Story were, how malevolent the cruelest child can be through the animators’ lens. Is there anyone who doesn’t find a beaten-up babydoll or a monkey with cymbals creepy? Pixar rides those inexplicable terrors for all they’re worth, and it’s ingenious. Likewise, everyone played with toys when they were small, and there are more than enough recognizable toys to make even the most jaded of us nostalgic. From the spinning arrow of “The Farmer Says” to the paratrooper army men to the Chatter Phone, there are toys here for every generation, and to see them come to life with such realism is terrifically satisfying. Even those who didn’t exactly grow up on the Toy Story films likely find the movies joyous and entertaining.

Pixar’s magic lies in its unfailing ability to fascinate adults and children alike. Toy Story 3 features sequences that will appeal to everyone—filmic techniques reminiscent of ‘80s romance, ‘40s noir, spaghetti Westerns, and classic action movies. Adults will find the homage charming, and children will experience those tropes through new eyes. The toys have to employ numerous Rube Goldberg-style methods of escape—one imagines that board meetings with the production crew were comprised of people wondering aloud, “Now, if you were eight inches tall, how would you make it through two locked doors and over an eight-foot wall?” (Who wouldn’t kill for one of those jobs?)

Toy Story 2 released in 1999, so technology has changed incredibly since that film, but of course Pixar kept up. The toys employ a cell phone to lure Andy to the toy box, Andy’s sister Molly wears iPod earbuds in one scene, and Woody uses an internet mapping program to find his way home. Likewise, Buster the dog has gotten old, fat, and gray, but is still adorable, and Molly and Andy are the same good kids they were—just a little bigger. Plot integration from the past to the present is flawless in every way.

No thanks to James Cameron’s big budget indulgence Avatar, 3D is experiencing an awful resurgence right now. Many films simply shouldn’t be transferred: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, while pretty and fun, misused 3D; Clash of the Titans was a terrible mistake that never should’ve been formatted that way. Pixar is the one and only studio that gets a pass on 3D: they know exactly how to do it right. Although nothing flies out of the screen at the viewer, as in last year’s Coraline, Toy Story 3’s animation is downright gorgeous. Everything from fibers to hair to grass to pupils looks perfect. Surely we’ve all heard that blowhard at parties elucidating at length why film can’t be art. Next time, tell him (or her) to go see a Pixar film and get back to you.

Without divulging too many details, Toy Story 3 will leave audiences giggling, nostalgic, and even teary, seemingly without effort (though of course production of a Pixar film takes years upon years, so there’s plenty of effort). With the magic of gorgeous animation, lovable characters, witty writing, and snappy, smart editing, Pixar has pulled out another winner: Toy Story 3 is a movie everyone, young and old, will enjoy.

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Toy Story 3 Trailer

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