Friday, June 18, 2010

Toy Story 3

With Toy Story 3 Pixar moves into uncharted territory. The studio has shied away from movie franchises and, other than Toy Story 2, has even stayed away from sequels. It's been 15 years since the original Toy Story hit theaters and an entire generation has grown up with these characters. So the question is: Does the third film do the franchise proud?

The answer, thankfully, is yes.

As the third film opens Andy (John Morris) is no longer so young. Over the past decade-and-a-half the young boy who played with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys has grown up. About to leave for college Andy is forced to make decisions on what vestiges of his youth to keep.

Without giving too much away, through a series of misadventures the toys find themselves packed away to a local daycare. The situation divides the group as to whether they should return to Andy or make new lives for themselves with the young children eager to play with them.

After a terrifically fun opening sequence (which includes my favorite line from the film) the film gets right down to business. Once again Pixar gives us a very personal story (growing up and leaving pieces of your childhood behind) and presents it in a moving and unflinching manner. Seen through the eyes of his toys the film, at times, is heartbreaking. Though one or two faces are absent most of the toys from the first two films, plus many new ones, make appearances here.

The newcomers include the cuddly but ornery Lotso (Ned Beatty), an old rotary-style telephone (Teddy Newton), an all-seeing monkey, a bully of a baby, and (my personal favorite) a somber clown named Chuckles (Bud Luckey). Although most work well, I did grew a little tired of Ken (Michael Keaton) who has some great early scenes with Barbie (Jodi Benson), but every time he comes back on screen he's a little less interesting. In terms of well-known toys he's also a bit of stunt-casting (more appropriate to something like the Shrek franchise?) the series had stayed away from with its first two films.

Although the film is very good I do have a nitpick or two. The film, at least for me, is about 10 minutes too long. The film's third act also feels too much like the creators were trying to make this third film bigger and better with elaborate sequences and quick twists that keep one such sequence involving the daycare and a junkyard going far longer than needed. That said, the sequence pays off with one of the film's most dramatic moments and a nice (if obvious) joke involving the alien triplets.

Toy Story 3 is an easy recommendation to make. It may not be everything it sets out to be, and it did start to make me impatient at one poit, but when it's good it's very good. And, as you would expect from Pixar, the film has a nice message - one that I plan to completely ignore. I'm not giving away my favorite toys anytime soon! Go see it; you'll be glad you did.

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