TOY STORY 3, 2010
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Michael Keaton, R. Lee Ermey, Timothy Dalton, Joan Cusack, Whoopi Goldberg, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Laurie Metcalf, Don Rickles, Ned Beatty
Woody (Hanks), Buzz (Allen), and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, departs for college.
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My god, has it been 15 years since "Toy Story" first came out? That certainly must be what Woody (Tom Hanks) et al. are thinking as their owner approaches adulthood and prepares to leave them behind once and for all. Not the "Toy Story" part, because they wouldn’t know they're in a movie, just the time passing part. Forget it.
The "Toy Story" films have always struck me as the most melancholic of kid's films since they're really about the end of childhood, the putting away of childish things (and boy have they stretched the heck out of that metaphor). It dwells so heavily on what happens (or, I should say, doesn't happen) to the stuff we leave behind.
Having survived the arrival of the new, sparkly toy and observed the lifelessness of perseveration, the toys have finally hit the one obstacle they knew they couldn't overcome: adulthood. With their young owner Andy (still original voice actor John Morris) heading to college, the toys face the unappealing choices of being stored in the attic, donated, or thrown out. Despite Woody's pleas to just do as Andy wishes, the toys decide to take the least awful choice and donate themselves to a local daycare where they can look forward to being played with and loved permanently, without ever having to worry about their owners growing up. What could go wrong with that?
Pixar overlord John Lassetter has turned the "Toy Story" reins over to "Toy Story 2" co-director Lee Unkrich, but the Pixar touch is still evident throughout the film. Pixar has always been that lone exception to the modern auteur theory with its almost factory like production process. Sure, there are visionaries at the top, creating the stories and characters and moving them along, but even they do a lot of their developing in a group structure.
For the most part that's worked for them. Rather than enforce the lowest common denominator thinking that's so prevalent in most Hollywood filmmaking of this sort, Pixar has manipulated it to enforce a high standard of quality. It's Hollywood the way Hollywood wants to work. Maybe it has something to do with animation, an extremely collaborative technique in an already collaborative medium.
It's not a perfect system, no system is. "A Bug's Life" was as bland as any marketing-lead Disney-film ever was and the best that can be said about "Cars" is that it was harmless. But when they're truly great, they show what a film can really achieve purely on an entertainment basis, shorn of presumptiveness or any other drive.
"Toy Story 3" is somewhere between those two extremes, making it quite a bit better than most stuff out there. The easy camaraderie and breezy humor of the first two versions is still apparent, although this version is far more Woody driven than any of the previous films.
After realizing that the other toys want to stay at the day care, Woody—the only toy Andy has decided to take to college with him—must find some way home before he leaves. But when he discovers the day care is really a prison run by the cruel Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty)—and how I've waited to write that—he has to decide if he will return to Andy or rush off to save his friends from a fate worse than death. Toddlers.
The signs of series fatigue are starting to set in, though Unkrich and his cohorts are generally too good to let it take over. Once again, jokes are made at Buzz's not knowing who he really is and how he actually relates to the other toys (at one point accidentally getting switched over to Spanish-language mode). Also once again the kindly father figure is revealed to be villain who uses toys to further his own ends. Come to think of it, Andy and his sister are raised by a single mother as well. I wonder if the filmmakers are trying to subconsciously institute a distrust of fathers and father-figures.
Be that as it may, "Toy Story 3" remains an excellent family film with some beautiful 3D animation and real heart, particularly during the fiery finale. The belly-laughs of the original are further apart now, and mostly belong to Ken and Barbie, though the play sequence at the beginning suggests some imaginative depths that I would like to have seen more of. The person who came up with the Monkey Bomb should be able to offer us some real humor, but doesn't seem to get the chance.
"Toy Story 3" is a bit on the safe side, hemmed in by its concept from offering the imagination that makes the best Pixar has to offer so good. In fact, it's quite upstaged by the opening short (the 2D/3D "Day and Night") which is beyond fantastic. But the filmmakers still understand real heart in a way that all the market focused pap other studios churn out can never seem to grasp. As downsides go, that's not too shabby.