Review: Pixar's Toy Story 3 is Magical & Full of Wonderment
by Jeremy Kirk
June 19, 2010
There is always a sense of apprehension going into the third movie of any franchise. Historically, the third film is where the series turns downhill, and the quality of story, character, and execution is rarely ever on par with the rest. The franchise loses its magic, if you will, and the characters and predicaments that play out typically seem derived and dull. You've never been able to count on a third movie in a franchise.
That is, until now. Why? Because Pixar has never made a third film in a series until now. With Toy Story 3, the same magic we've come to know and love from not only the first two Toy Story films but all Pixar has had to offer to date is on full display. Heartwarming, adventurous, and comical, the precise combination we've seen time and time again from this studio, Toy Story 3 is every bit as magical as the previous films in its franchise.
Set 10 years after the events of Toy Story 2, Andy, the child whose toys we've seen go on a few adventures, is now 17. He's moved on from playing with toys as all 17-year-olds must do in favor of cell phones and cars. Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the gang (at least, the rest of the gang that hasn't already been given away or tossed) find themselves relegated to Andy's toy chest, only getting time with him after hiding his cell phone in with them. Andy is planning to go to college, and the decision on what he should do with these toys comes up.
Through a series of mishaps, as is the case with most of these adventures these toys gets into, the toys find themselves at the Sunnyside Day Care Facility. There, they meet new toys who convince them that Sunnyside is a happy place where the children are loving and careful with each toy. But, as with any adventure, not everything is as it appears to be, and the toys soon find themselves in a situation they must escape from as quickly as possible.
Directed by Lee Unkrich, who co-directed Toy Story 2 with John Lasseter and Ash Brannon, there was a lot of expectation going into Toy Story 3. Would we be able to revisit these same characters with as much connection and heart we had for them 10 years after last visiting them? Toy Story 3 meets those expectations and answers them in kind. From scene one, we are right back in with the toys, connected as we've ever been with their story. In fact, as was the case twice before, there is more connection between the animated characters of Toy Story 3 and the audience than there is found in most, live-action films these days.
And that is what makes Pixar so special. Every film they have put out to date not only incorporates flawless and meticulously crafted animation. An opening scene here that includes millions of toy monkeys is quite a stunning achievement to behold. But, more so than the brilliance of their animation, the characters and story are put forth in such loving care, it's no wonder Pixar's films are consistently nominated for screenwriting awards. Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich are to thank for the screenplay here. The story, both heartfelt and important to the overall series, has a wonderful way of referring back to the previous films, something people who know those films in and out will appreciate. Even though it may not be the most inventive set-up we've seen from the Pixar team (you can't help but get a sense of been-there-done-that with the idea of the toys having to escape from a facility they find themselves trapped in), this is easily brushed aside in favor of the incredibly crafted characters both old and new.
Woody and Buzz are just as exquisitely written as they've ever been, and neither of them would work as well were it not for Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, respectively, serving as their voices. Buzz gets put on the back-burner ever so slightly here, but that goes with the story at hand. All the old characters are back and in full force, but the new characters on display here are equally as significant. The idea of bringing Ken and Barbie into this story, voiced by Michael Keaton and Jodi Benson, was a stroke of genius. Their plot-line serves some incredibly comical moments, especially when Ken feels the need to fashion his vast wardrobe for Barbie. Ned Beatty as the voice of Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear, the leader of the team at Sunnyside, is also a well-written and executed character, even if his intentions are somewhat predictable in nature.
The characters, the story, and the animation are all there in Toy Story 3, all ingredients of a wonderful and engaging film. But more importantly than these, the film has heart, and what would a Pixar movie be without a boat load of heart? It wouldn't be Pixar, that's for sure. Toy Story 3 is certainly about these characters and the latest adventure they find themselves on, but, ultimately, the film is at its most gripping in the smaller moments between characters. It's in the connection a young boy has with the toys he has grown up with, the same toys he must one day put away in favor of a much bigger world.
The final scenes in Toy Story 3, no details given, are incredibly moving, and, once again, Pixar easily brings you to tears. They are happy tears, tears of hope and brought about by the human character both young and old. It's about the imagination of a child, and as seen in Toy Story 3, there's nothing more magical than that.
Jeremy's Rating: 9 out of 10