Screen Rant's Vic Holtreman reviews Toy Story 3
Have I mentioned recently how much I love Pixar? When you have a company creating film after film, and the worst thing that you can say about its weakest (Cars) is that it was "just good," then you have a once in a lifetime company to be treasured - and those who run it should be thanked endlessly for their work.
Some people raised an eyebrow when Toy Story 3 was announced. Was Pixar being strong-armed by Disney just to squeeze more money out of a brand consisting of two excellent movies? Were they running out of original ideas (snicker... RIGHT). Well now that it's done, let's be supremely thankful that Pixar veterans Lee Unkrich, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton brought the now familiar gang back together for a final film.
Prior to the film there was a customary animated short, which I won't describe in detail to not spoil the surprise other than to say that it was one of the most creative and cute animations I've seen from Pixar (and that's saying a lot). Right up until the end, that is, where it closed with some unnecessary dialog that felt just a touch preachy. But let's move on to the main event...
Toy Story 3 opens in a similar vein to the previous film, but this time Woody (Tom Hanks) is the hero of the imaginary adventure. We're in the old west and he's trying to save a train full of orphans that has been hijacked by the evil Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. Right from the opening minutes the film will put a smile on your face and please you with surprises.
There's a sweet montage right after that which shows Andy (owner of our little group of friends) on videotape as we remember him from the previous films, playing with and loving his favorite toys.We see him grow up a bit, and now he's 17 years old and days away from leaving for college. Our gang hasn't seen much play action, spending who knows how many years now closed up in an old toy chest.
Well with Andy leaving, mom wants to clean things up and Andy has to decide what to take with him, what to throw away, donate or put up in the attic for storage. Except for Woody and Buzz (Tim Allen), the toys are freaking out thinking they're headed for the city dump. While of course they weren't headed that way, some confusion ensues and they do indeed end up at the curb. Woody rescues them and tries to tell them it was a mistake, but they're all convinced that Andy was trying to get rid of them.
Hiding in a box meant for toy donations to a local daycare center, they believe they've found a new home where there will be an endless supply of young children to play with them forever and they'll never be outgrown. They're welcomed by the veteran toys, led by Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (he smells like strawberries!). He (Ned Beatty) welcomes them, explains what a wonderful place they've found and shows them where they'll be living. Turns out they've been placed with children too young for them and they are battered mercilessly by rough play. Eventually they come to find that this isn't a paradise, but a prison. Woody leaves prior to this discovery, and of course the rest of the film is dedicated to setting everyone free and getting back to Andy's house whether he wants them or not.
Prior to this film Lee Unkrich directed Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. He directed and co-wrote the film, and co-writers Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter have an honorable Pixar pedigree in both writing and directing. I'm quite tempted to say that this team can do no wrong. Toy Story 3 was laugh out loud funny, exciting, heartwarming and touching.
There are so many kudos to pass around that one doesn't know where to start... but if I have to start somewhere it's going to be with Ken, voiced by Michael Keaton. He is hysterically funny as the self-conscious "cool guy." The scenes with him and Barbie (Jodi Benson) will have you giggling like a little kid (if you're not one any more).
John Ratzenberger returns as Hamm and he's got great one-liners aplenty, as does Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Joan Cusack as the ever spunky Jessie. Blake Clark has replaced Jim Varney (who passed away February 2000) as Slinky Dog. Ned Beatty does a subtle and great job as Lotso, the seemingly friendly bear with a dark side.
And man oh man does Tim Allen deliver in the second half of the film. Buzz is captured by Lotso and re-set to factory settings - but it's when Woody and crew undo that that he will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. Puts a smile on my face just writing about it. :) Oh, and let's not forget our three little alien friends who worship "the claaaaawwww." They're not in the film much, but when they do appear they're put to great use. There are also new characters (both human and toy) to fall in love with here.
Then there's the animation... Watch the three films back to back and you'll see the progression in the quality of the animation - in this film the people are still stylized, but the level of detail and expression is far beyond what was in the previous film; it's really beautiful and helps you connect to the human characters more than ever. Having said that, I did see it in 3D and frankly the film would have been just as good without it. The 3D doesn't hurt the film - but it doesn't really add much to it either.
And the emotional part of the film... it starts tugging at you a little bit early on, then gives way for a lot of the fun stuff, but the last 15 minutes... Holy cow, if you don't shed a tear at some point you might just be made of stone. There's just one scene after another, going from touching, to heartbreaking, back to touching and melancholy. There are few live action films that can reach your heart the way this one did in the last 15 minutes or so.
So why not a perfect score? Well following the opening sequence, for a while it was "just good." Sure, we get to see our favorite characters again and that was fun, but it seemed like more of the same. It's not really until the prison break that the film really kicks it into high gear and becomes something very, very special.
Go see Toy Story 3 and take the whole family. It might just end up being your all time favorite Pixar film.
And just for fun, here's another look at a funny promo ad for the film that gives a good idea of Michael Keaton's "Ken" in the film to help you decide.
If you want to talk about the film in depth without worrying about spoiling for folks who haven't seen it, head over to our Toy Story 3 spoilers discussion.