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Toy Story 3

(2010)

Directed by

Lee Unkrich

 

Review by Todd Plucknett

Posted - 6/20/10

 

There is no bigger Toy Story fan in the world than me. The original is in my top 50 of all time, and the second is not that terribly far behind. I may have been alone in feeling apprehension toward the thought of a third film. Even when I first heard that it was being penned by Oscar-winner Michael Arndt, I was still uneasy. How could they follow up the first two? Why would they risk lessening the perfection of the series 11 years later? Put simply, the material is that good.

Toy Story has somewhat followed Andy, the owner of the toys, throughout his childhood. First, he was a young child obsessed with his Sherriff Woody doll (Oscar-winner Tom Hanks) and easily swayed away from him by the new flashy Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Four years later, the sequel took place when Andy was heading off to cowboy camp, starting to feel a bit less attached to his toys already. Now, after eleven more years, Andy is off to college, and he needs to decide what to do with all of his belongings. Many of the toys have already been lost due to yard sales, donations, and such. These include RC, Etch, Wheazy, and even Bo Peep. What we are left with are the core toys Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Rex, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and their adopted Pizza Planet aliens, Jessie, Bullseye, and Slinky Dog (now voiced by Blake Clark). Initially, Andy decides to take Woody with him and throw the rest in the attic. They accidentally end up being donated to Sunnyside Daycare, where they meet Ken (Michael Keaton) and Lotso (Ned Beatty), among others, where they feel right at home, never having to worry about not being played with again. When the kids grow up, new kids come in. No hearts are broken. This appealed to all of them, who could not bear not being played with anymore. However, this place is not all cozy and nice as it is first portrayed to them.

What makes this film different than the others is it is so much more observant and emotional. I never expected to be moved quite like that. These characters seem like my friends. Maybe that is just simply the fact that Andy has been growing up basically with me, and I know what it is like to have to let go of your childhood. These toys seemed like my toys, and watching Andy’s inner conflict really struck a chord with me and the rest of the audience, seeing how nearly everyone was tearing up in the end. The original film was about learning to be a friend and accepting new people. The second one was about what one will do for a friend and always being there for the people you love. This one is about the importance of friendships, growing up, and saying goodbye. The final scenes in this film are as close to perfect as any that I have seen, and it provides complete closure for these characters that we have all come to know and love.

Toy Story 3 also is somewhat of a send-up to film in general. The opening sequence, not unlike the videogame first scene of Toy Story 2, is a scene almost straight out of an old western. Scenes in the middle will recall a host of classic prison movies. Star Wars is again referenced throughout the film. There are several other references, none more noteworthy than the preceding films in this franchise. So many of the lines and characters come full circle in this film, and none of the references seem too convenient or contrived. They are used at the exact right times, which is a credit to the wit and brilliance of second-time writer Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine). It is also a credit to the director Lee Unkrich, a co-director on Toy Story 2. The transition is almost seamless, never losing an ounce of the appeal or atmosphere that made the first two films in this franchise such a wonder.

I have come to the conclusion that Pixar features the best filmmakers and storytellers in the world. This is the third straight one of their films that I have awarded 4 stars to. I cannot say with a clean conscience that this is not head and shoulders above every other film that I have seen this year. This is one of the best efforts that Pixar has had, and it ranks with the best animated movies and best sequels ever put on screen. With Pixar, WALL-E may be its most creative and meaningful. Monster’s Inc. may be its most affecting. Finding Nemo may be its most widely appealing. Ratatouille may be its funniest. The Incredibles may be its most entertaining. Up may be its most lyrical and beautiful. But Toy Story is where they are at their best. This three-part series (and I hope it ends there) is probably the most beloved animated saga ever. It provides the perfect amount of laughs (though nowhere near as many as the previous two), sentiment, and visual beauty. The conclusion to the film is exactly where it needed to be. I thought that there was closure after part 2, but now I cannot express my gratitude for the Pixar “brain trust” for coming up with this one last beautiful, magical tale to add to the saga.

Toy Story 3 is a film that will last in the memory of the audience for a long time, perhaps forever. The simplicity and emotional resonance are among its best qualities. I admit, the first act of the film seemed a bit repetitive, but that only reflects the fact that the toys had not adjusted yet. They all knew that the day Andy left for college was coming, yet they still held out for hope that he would have one last day with his childhood memories. How they handle this late in the film is just perfect. The Toy Story films dare its audience to make believe and use its imagination. It is astonishing to think about where these visionary filmmakers started. With Toy Story, we all saw new ground being broken before our eyes. Now, we get to the point that the films being produced are the best films that come out in those years, and these characters in particular have matured along the filmmakers to the point that they are at the top of their craft. It is no wonder that Toy Story 3 seems like such a nostalgic love letter to its characters and to film. This is where Pixar started, and they continued their masterpiece with incredible beauty and poignancy. This 3-D (not vital to the viewing, by the way) adventure is among the most emotionally and intellectually satisfying films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing in the cinema. It is almost a lock for a Best Picture nomination and being the best reviewed film of the year. It is a nearly-flawless and truly special and heartfelt conclusion to a wonderful group of movies. It is rare cases like this that remind us why we all fell in love with movies in the first place. It is one to be cherished, for infinity and beyond.

Rating:


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