Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: "Toy Story 3"

**Spoilers Included** In 1995 "Toy Story," the first full length feature film presented entirely in CGI, was released and wowed audiences with its technical brilliance and excellent storytelling. Unlike most animated film series', Pixar took it slow and didn't rush the release of successive films and it shows in the craftsmanship of this third installment. The movie has been out for almost a month now and it's no secret that it has been critically hailed and currently carries a "fresh" score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes -- beating out "The Dark Knight" by 5% on their aggregate scale. So it may be redundant for me to throw in my recommendation but it's never a waste of time to give some respect to a film that is so good that it leaves the competition looking like they're still trying to decipher the formula that "Toy Story" has perfected. Animated films are often a standby when it comes to summer movie going. Disney set the standard early on with stories that could be enjoyed by adults and children alike. But sequels tend to be uneven whether they're live action or CGI. The "Shrek" franchise produced its fourth installment this summer to mixed reviews and box office returns, that while good, were still not as high as what the last two movies had earned in the opening weekends. So sequel fatigue could have easily been catching if Pixar hadn't stuck to the basic premise that made the original "Toy Story" so good-- but they did and "Toy Story 3" feels very much like the final chapter of a most satisfying sequence of films that have a clear beginning, middle and end. The casting of "Toy Story" has been remarkably consistent over the last 15 years and we've watched the story of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, as voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, progress through the childhood of Andy Davis (John Morris) who is now a young man getting ready to leave for college. The basic premise of "Toy Story" has always been the same-- the devotion Woody and Buzz feel toward their young owner and the lengths they'll go to in order to be there for him. But Andy has reached the age where he is too old to play with children's toys anymore and as he packs up for college, the fate of his favorite old toys seems to be a trip to the attic-- at best. However, after a series of misunderstandings, the toys find themselves at the Sunnyside Daycare center. At first it seems like the start of a new life of endless playtime with the children at the daycare center, but it isn't long before they realize they are at the mercy of a tyrannical teddy bear named Lots-O (Ned Beatty). Soon the old group of toys, including Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris and Don Rickles), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Barbie (Jodie Benson) and Hamm (John Ratzenberger) find themselves squared off against Lots-O and his group of thuggish toys and a Buzz Lightyear stuck in "demo" mode. Woody, as is often the case, finds himself temporarily stranded and at odds with the rest of the toys, but his underlying loyalty reasserts itself, as always, and he rushes to help his friends find their way back to their beloved Andy. "Toy Story 3" is an absolute sister to the other films in the franchise because they all have so many elements in common but, somehow, the pattern never gets old. In addition to the rush to return to Andy, we once again we see the core group of characters interacting with a new group of toys and get to watch their developing dynamic-- this time Ken (Michael Keaton) steals the show. The movie is also unabashedly sentimental. It's not just a story that reaches out to the child in all of us who has ever had a favorite toy, but tugs at the parent watching their children grow up and move on to their adult life. You have to be made of stone not to tear up a little bit while watching "Toy Story 3" -- I know I did. "Toy Story 3" is a testament to consistently first-rate film making we've come to expect from Pixar. From "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille" and "Up"-- to "Toy Story 3" -- Pixar has delivered some of the best summer fare over the last 15 years and I'm glad I took the time to take my kids to this wonderful movie. It's been a fairly dreary summer movie season so far, and a flamenco dancing Buzz Lightyear added a much-needed boost. "Toy Story 3" delivers on every level, with terrific storytelling, humor and emotional depth. This one definitely gets my highest recommendation.

8 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I won't read it because I'm looking forward to seeing this one myself.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I saw the first two films, but then I started reading about full grown men sobbing in their seats, and knowing myself...well let's just say I'm going to wait until I can see it at home. I remember sobbing hysterically at the baseball movie with Kevin Costner, and not just at the end. And I have avoided Marley and Me like the plague. And like Charles, I skipped the review because I haven't seen it either.

Jim Haley said...

It's worth mentioning that the tearing up will likely only happen for the adults in the audience - it went completely over the heads of my kids (really because what we're talking about at the end is "growing out of childhood"). It's a fantastic movie. It may not be my favorite Toy Story film (I think #2 holds the edge) but we're talking a trilogy of movies that are all head and shoulders above anything else, and the third is just as good as the previous ones.

BStearns said...

I agree 100%. This was a terrific film. I was 5 years old when the first Toy Story came out, and I even remember having myself a Woody toy. All these films have been fantastic, but Toy Story 1 takes the cake. That being said, being 19 I saw it with my friend, and we loved it. You know you've made a great film when every single demographic will go and watch it. It even made me dig out the VCR, hunt down my Toy Story VHS to watch that gem. Loved it, and a great review!

-Bryan
www.sff-hub.com

SQT said...

@Charles--Okay, short version, it's really good.

@Stewart-- I cried. Pixar is so good at that. I cried when I watched "Up" too. Love both movies. You know what really, really makes me cry? "Lonesome Dove." I bawled when I watched that the first time. I've loved Robert Duvall ever since.

@Jim- Yeah, my kids didn't shed a tear. But they love it. My son-- who is never quiet in movies, was so quiet I kept asking him if he was okay. He was just that into it.

@BStearns-- You were 5 when the first one came out? I suddenly feel very old. I met my husband in '95...I actually think this one may be my favorite. Granted, it's like choosing between your kids. But Buzz just killed me in this one.

BStearns said...

What is it with me this week? People keep telling me I make them feel old. How about, sorry did I say 5? I meant 15. Ya, that's it! Is that any better?

-Bryan
www.sff-hub.com

SQT said...

@BStearns-- It's not you're fault. We're just getting old. 15 wouldn't even make me feel better because I was 25 when it came out. Yep, I'm 20 years older than you. Ugh (that's for my age-- not your youth). I wouldn't mind except for the fact that my knees aren't as resilient as they were when I was 20-- but that's an entirely different topic.

Bryan said...

I am absolutely looking forward to seeing this soon. I cried for "when somebody loved me" so hard in 2. I cried in the theater at ET, Yoda's last breath and the Color Purple...also showing my age a little. Very clear memories of theater tears. Love it when a movie can do that. Explaining how awesome it is that the filmmakers, writers and artists making the movie can pull you in so well that you burst out into tears, is such a cool daddy thing.