After Pixar has proved itself yet again with Toy Story 3, I’m convinced Pixar is unstoppable. It’s made a film with Larry the Cable Guy in a lead role generally favored, it’s destroyed the third film curse, heck, it’s one of the few film studios that has a perfectly clean record. Say what you will about Cars, but some of the industry’s best filmmakers like Scorsese, Bay, or Tarantino would kill for a track record like John Lasster’s, Brad Bird’s, or Lee Unkrich’s. The film seemingly takes advantage of the idea that it’s been 11 years since we’ve last seen these characters, where you feel as if you’re finally home by the time the opening credits are complete, once Buzz Lightyear takes to the skies yet again, once Jessie lets out a yodel, and once Woody reminds us all who his favorite deputy is. The film, as stated earlier, takes place roughly 11 years after Toy Story 2, and it’s a completely different world. The toys are no longer Andy’s first priority as he prepares for college, and for them it’s becoming less and less of how to keep Andy’s attention and more of “What’s next?”. Through a freak happenstance of circumstances, the toys end up being donated to Sunnyside Daycare, where they’re led to believe they’ve entered toy heaven by Ken and Lotso the Hugging Bear, but as time goes in things begin to change for the worse, the film becomes more of a prison-break style romp. The 3D in the film works great, it’s thankfully not the obvious sort of 3D but gives the film the new style of depth that works great for animated movies. The film’s also hysterically funny at times, and works as a great combination of humor and adventure while still reminding us why we love these characters in the first place. Just like it was a decade and a half ago when this all began, and as it’s always been in Pixar’s films ever since, the voice cast in the film is among their best. Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, even though I still have trouble mixing up the two names, have some incredible voice presence in the movie just like they did back in the old days. Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, and John Ratzenburger, among the rest of the toy crew like Blake Clark taking the place of Slinky for the deceased Jim Varney (Rest In Peace), bring their A-Game just as if it was second nature to them. Jeff Garlin has one of the best lines in the film as a stuffed unicorn, and Timothy Dalton a.k.a. 007 and Bonnie Hunt both have really fun, smaller parts in the film, and even Michael Keeton as Ken seems to be having a comedic rebound by getting in some really hysterical stuff. Kelsey Grammar was one of my favorite characters as the villain, The Prospector, in Toy Story 2, and now Ned Beatty has continued the tradition in Toy Story’s impressive villains by really bringing Lotso to life with the charisma in his voice and, although it sounds crazy, his believability in voicing the part. He’s chilling, and perfectly exudes the creepiness of the Southern charm. Being as there’s so much work that goes into the voice of these characters, it only makes sense to continue in setting the bar in animation (although it’s tough to consider topping the animation bar set last year in my favorite animated film of all time, “Up”). The characters all look better than ever, Lotso’s fur looks beautiful from my own odd animation-critiquing eye, Ken’s movements are all cleverly and hilariously done, and the setting’s lighting and shading elements have to be the best out there. Aside from how great Dreamworks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon looked, it’s not that much of a stretch to say that Toy Story 3 is the best looking animated film ever made. I could go on and on about all that Pixar does perfectly animating the film and making sure it looks great, but then my review word count would enter the tens of thousands. It’s almost as if Pixar is reinventing the art of animation. By the time the ending credits had rolled, it was almost as if Pixar had also reinvented the art of inventively telling a story. Toy Story 1 and 2 worked excellently as two of the pioneer films of 3D animation, and it was sort of iffy as to whether or not it was necessary or even relevant to do a film about talking toys when we live in the new technology age now. It’s a different world than the one I lived in when I was in second grade. It really wouldn’t be as fulfilling a film if Andy’s iPad and Sprint EVO 4G Phone played together whenever he was away. Back to the idea of Pixar’s masterworking of storytelling, one of the best aspects is the notion of the film’s character arcs. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the crew each share their moments on the screen, each one has an interesting plotline and is respected equally script-wise. Even as the new characters are brought in, similar to Jessie’s back story in Toy Story 2, the character Lotso and his own back story provide some of the film’s most gut-punching scenes. Even though the movie’s about nothing more the adventures of toys, play things (sound familiar), it’s a film with some not-so-surprising-coming-from-Pixar-depth. Messages and ideas of abandonment by those we love, keeping hope even in the darkest of times, and even in some cases the acceptance of death, and the continuance of life, among all of these other heavy-hitting themes are huge elements of the film, and will certainly keep you thinking and remind you just how much love and care goes into this film. Just as the question was introduced on the necessity of TS3, the end result after seeing the film twice is that not only is the film necessary, it stands as quite possibly the best in the series. Just as Christopher Nolan and other directors have strived for in the past, it’s not about prolonging the series into a third film, it’s about telling a story that stands on its own, while still at times making things bigger and better, correcting problems and adjusting scale, and in the end making a film that stands on its own. I had a slight problem with the fact that the film feels a little rushed in the transition between the second and third act, but it keeps the film in a quick pace that will be easier for kids to enjoy. The film takes the characters to a lot of places, some places that are really bright and happy, places that are darker than we could have imagined and that bring us to tears, and others that touch your heart in places only Pixar can reach. We’re sad to see the story of Woody, Jessie, Buzz and the rest of the toys come to an end, but just as the film teaches us sometimes its best pass things on to others, and Lee Unkrich and his team have crafted a film that rounds out a trilogy that will keep millions of children entertained for years. Toy Story 3 tells its own separate story that’s perfectly entertaining and worthwhile, while also giving any and everyone that grew up with the series like myself or maybe those that are introducing the series to the next generation that satisfying sense of a brilliantly perfect, well-fitting conclusion to the best animated film trilogy of all time.
5 out of 5
On a separate note, the short film that precedes Toy Story 3, “Day and Night”, is a real blast, it stands as one of my favorite short films by Pixar out there. There’s a great blast that they have with a mixture of 2D and 3D animation, and above anything else you’re going to be marveling at wondering how exactly they brought it to life. Although it’s a tad bit dull, It’s funny, it’s insightful, it’s heartwarming, all in the span of 5 minutes, and it’s all that you’ve come to expect from Pixar.
4 out of 5