Thursday, July 01, 2010

Toy Story 3 / *** (G)

Featuring the voice talents of:
Woody: Tom Hanks
Buzz Lightyear: Tim Allen
Jessie: Joan Cusack
Mr. Potato Head: Don Rickles
Rex: Wallace Shawn
Piggy: John Ratzenberger
Mrs. Potato Head: Estelle Harris
Slinky Dog: Blake Clark
Lotso: Ned Beatty
Ken: Michael Keaton
Barbie: Jodi Benson
Andy: John Morris
Andy’s Mom: Laurie Metcalf

Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures present a film directed by Lee Unkirch. Written by Michael Arndt and John Lassester and Andrew Stanton and Unkirch. Running time: 103 min. Rated G.

I’m not sure really what’s left to say about the “Toy Story” series. I can assure you that what you hear about “Toy Story 3” is most certainly true; it will make you cry. The rest of this review will probably read like some sort of lashing for what is really a perfectly enjoyable movie and everything that a good family movie should be.

Pixar Animation Studios has been a beacon of shining light in the area of family filmmaking for the past fifteen years, bringing the genre from the brink of irrelevance, despite the early ‘90s Disney musical resurgence, to raise the bar of the entire family friendly market. As Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips said, “had this movie come from any other studio, it would be considered another great animated masterpiece.” But coming from Pixar, a little something more is expected.

It has been more than 10 years since their last adventure, but it seems Woody (voiced once again by Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) and the rest of Andy’s toys have one more adventure left in them. Andy (John Morris) is all grown up and is about to leave home for college. What to do with his toys? This question is a bit more of a concern for his toys than it is for Andy or his mother (Laurie Metcalf). When Andy decides to take Woody along with him to college, the rest of the toys fear it is the trash for them and opt to stow away in a box labeled for donation to the Sunnyside Daycare Center. Woody tries to convince them that they’re still Andy’s toys, but there’s no swaying Buzz and the rest that donation is their best option to finally be played with again.

At first, Sunnyside looks as if it’s some sort of toy paradise. Andy’s toys are welcomed with open arms by the Sunnyside toy patriarch, an old teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty, “Charlie Wilson’s War”), short for Lots ‘o Hugs. When Barbie (Jodi Benson, “The Little Mermaid”) meets Ken (Michael Keaton, “Cars”), it’s love at first sight. But not everything at Sunnyside is as it seems at first. Soon, Andy’s toys are convinced they might be better off in storage.

Once again, the Pixar touch for highly observant detail is on great display here under the guiding hand of director Lee Unkirch (“Monsters, Inc.”). The toys’ world is a magical journey down nostalgia lane, for adults as well as children. There’s an old toy phone here that I distinctly remember from my childhood. The characterization of Ken as a clothesaholic is a wonderful stroke of genius and figures in as an important part of the plot. Plus, the human character of Bonnie (Emily Hahn) is a great reminder of what a strong connection we all held to our toys as children.

But for the first time I can remember in a Pixar film, this great attention to detail is really where the filmmakers stopped. It is all great wonderful fun, but much of the human depth that usually accompanies a Pixar film, even when it involves a rat or a robot, seems to be missing here. Other than the last ten minutes of the movie, the whole thing is merely another adventure for Woody and the gang.

The detail of the passage of time seems largely ignored by the script. While more than ten years have passed in this toy universe, just as it has for the audience, the toys themselves seem unaware of the passage of time. I find it hard to believe that after spending 10 years stuck together in a toy box that Buzz is just now figuring out that Jesse (Joan Cusack) would like to lasso him.

It seems almost sacrilegious to talk bad about these fictional toys that we’ve come to love almost as much as the toys we owned as children, especially considering how well this movie makes us empathize for those toys in its final moments. However, there is something missing this time around. “Toy Story 3” is one of the better times you’ll have in the cinema this summer. It just doesn’t feel like this adventure will be as well remembered in years to come as the first two. “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” are those favorite toys you’ll never forget, like Buzz and Woody. “Toy Story 3” may be a little more like a slinky, fun to play with until it gets a kink in it, certainly not something you’re going to cry over twenty years down the line.

Toy Story 3 | Movie Trailers

1 comment:

Soozcat said...

Agreed. Unkrich & Co. have done a good job bringing the series to a graceful close, but I still think Toy Story 2 is the best, most heartfelt film in the series.