Toy Story 3 Review
Toy Story was the very first mainstream movie to be made entirely with CG, and the first Disney/Pixar release, back in 1995. Not only was it advanced in its use of the technology, an innovative animated feature film, but was also praised for its witty and remarkably sophisticated script, which – for one of the first times in what was essentially an ostensible kids’ movie – actually appealed to adults as much as children. Whilst the kids were enjoying the cartoonish exploits, the silly antics and the colourful, imaginative toys, adults were revelling in the smart humour, the clever dialogue and the remarkably engaging plot. It was arguably a turning point for animated features, as it transcended the genre restrictions and was looked on as a great movie first and an animation second, rather than the other way around.
Four years later and we had Toy Story 2 which, in many respects, proved to be not only bigger but also better in terms of both animation and story. Certainly classed as a sequel that compares to the quality of the original (c.f. Aliens, Terminator 2), and it far surpassed the original’s Box Office take. Personally, I still prefer the original, and find that it has infinitely more rewatch value (and I also don’t particularly like Kelsey Grammar’s properly despicable villain) but Toy Story 2 was an excellent sequel nonetheless.
A decade on, with a 100% track record for the critical and commercial success of all its productions, and Disney/Pixar (actually just Disney, because Pixar was absorbed into the larger company a few years ago) were finally agreed upon developing a 3rd movie, this time not only taking advantage of new 3D technology, but also boasting the first theatrical 7.1 soundtrack from Dolby. And, with the massive success of the franchise, and all of Pixar’s other creations, everybody was pretty keen on making sure this sequel wouldn’t disappoint.
Andy is going to college now, his fabulous toys largely a thing of the past, with the only choice left to make being what items get boxed and put in the attic, and what gets thrown out. But when his toys accidently get put in the trash, they get disheartened and decide to go looking for a new home. And where better than a daycare centre, where they can join lots of other toys, and get played with forever by an endless cycle of kids?
Unfortunately the daycare centre isn’t all that it seems, and Andy’s toys soon realise that the whole toy community there is being run by a teddy bear named Lotso and his tough enforcers. All the new arrivals get put in with the worst kids, and have to work their way up the food chain – or face being destroyed. Will Andy’s toys manage to find a way to escape this daycare prison, and will they ever see Andy again? Oh, and why’s Buzz speaking Spanish?
Toy Story 3 is a fantastic sequel. The old Toy Story crew (those who remain) have worked wonders to bring us a resoundingly brilliant addition to the series, a film which – in my opinion – almost surpasses the second, and even competes with the first in terms of all-round excellence and rewatchability, perhaps only losing out due to the fact that Toy Story was a landmark turning point for CG and animated movies in the mainstream.
It kicks off with a frantic Wild West chase, the longest and most expansive of all prologues, introducing us to all the well-known and loved characters that have certainly not left our minds in the decade since the last instalment. A few toys have fallen to the wayside, including Bo-Peep, Etch and Wheezy, but all of the rest of the main characters return: Sheriff Woody, cowgirl Jane, Mr & Mrs Potato-head, Rex the Tyrannosaurus, Slinky Dog, Barbie, the green Aliens and, of course, Buzz Lightyear. And with them return (almost) all of the corresponding voice actors: Tom Hanks, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Wallace Shawn, Blake Clark, Jodi Benson, Jeff Pidgeon and, of course, Tim Allen.
Before long we’re introduced to a whole new hoard of characters, including Deliverance’s Ned Beatty voicing the manipulative, corrupt Lotso; Michael Keaton as Barbie’s equally vapid and massively fey counterpart, Ken; Whoopi Goldberg as a purple jelly octopus called Stretch; and ex-Bond, Timothy Dalton, as Mr. Pricklepants, a Thespian hedgehog. Oh and there’s a demented baby that looks like Chucky, but she doesn’t really say much, she just looks damn scary.
The story may remind you somewhat of the second adventure’s tale of toys getting thrown away, and Ned Beatty’s villain is, admittedly, marginally reminiscent of Kelsey Grammar’s irritating “Prospector” in the second outing, but this is still a remarkably fresh tale, complete with numerous new locations, new toys, and new kids (we’re talking over 300 toys here).
I wonder what it would have turned out like if they had gone with the original script – a story about all the Buzz Lightyear models getting recalled to Taiwan, and the other toys going there to help Buzz out – because it would have changed the location much more dramatically, but they’ve done well to mix things up here quite a bit, and the several stand-out setpieces include Woody gliding across the entire neighbourhood, and a tense scene involving a landfill site and an incinerator.
Oh and Buzz speaking Spanish. I have to wonder whether something happened to Tim Allen’s contract (during the Disney/Pixar feud he didn’t show as much loyalty as the rest) as his vocal contribution is fairly limited, but – on the plus side – we do get to have plenty of the character, and his Spanish ‘setting’ makes for some quality hilarity.
And there are still loads of adult references in the mix, whether the underlying thread of redundancy in a time of current economic crisis, or the more obvious critique of packed daycare centres and the insanity within (counterpointed with the treatment of the more ‘posh’ kids, reflecting a class medium upon the subjects). Then there’s the simple story already established in Toy Story 2: children outgrowing their childhood playthings, and their parents finally accepting that their job is done – in this case, the Toys’ “mission” of course being complete, at least in respect of Andy.
Toy Story 3 is packed with moments for children and adults alike, and has a lovely way of showcasing the habits of kids in a loving way that will make those who are familiar of kids knowingly smile, and those who don’t have kids remember what it was like to be one. Here we see the vivid imaginations of the ‘good’ children – using cardboard boxes to make spaceships, a bucket full of monkeys as a way to drown other toys, and flipping back and forth between imaginary ‘sides’ in a way that only children can: “Oh look, he’s got an attack dog with a force field. But wait, here’s comes a dinosaur who can eat force fields...” – as well as naughty children, who stick the toys up their noses, lick them, paint them and smash them into the ground repeatedly. As you would only expect them to. It’s fantastic, relatable stuff, in a movie that is already packed with laugh-out-loud hilarity, warm but never sickly sweet touches, and genuinely tense moments.
When all is said and done, Toy Story 3 may well be the final entry in the series, and what a way to go out! This is certainly a respectful and fitting farewell to the toys that many fans, young and old, have grown to love over the last 15 years. Nobody could have possibly expected more and, hopefully, most people will be blown away by the end result. Highly recommended.