Friday, July 2, 2010

Movie with Abe: Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Released June 18, 2010

The last time I saw a movie after hearing nothing but positive reviews and actually agreed with them, it was “Avatar.” While many heaped praise on it, others lambasted its lengthy runtime and alleged racial implications. The crucial difference with the third installment of Pixar’s enormously successful franchise is that it’s nearly impossible not to like it. Case in point: the friend who accompanied me to a showing of the film last week hadn’t seen either of the first two films, citing a lack of affinity for animation. She couldn’t help from cracking up (and tearing up) during the film, proving once and for all that these toy stories are relevant to all of us at any age.

It’s been eleven years since the previous “Toy Story” installment was released, and that time gap is used extraordinarily well even within the film’s opening moments. A high-speed chase features all of the toys in character, and it’s revealed to be an imagined realization of Andy playing with his toys as a child. Just as time has passed in the real world, so it has in the universe of the film. Andy is off to college, and, through a series of mishaps, his formerly beloved toys end up stranded – at a day care, of all places. As in the past, Woody is the voice of reason who insists that it is their duty to return to faithfully serve Andy, while the other toys think they can find a new home in this glorious place where children will never grow tired of playing with them.

Like the first two movies, the third chapter of the “Toy Story” series is daringly clever in both concept and execution. At first, Woody’s seeming need to contradict the rest of the bunch seems excessive, but ultimately, this band of toys proves to be just as functional and endearing as ever. Most importantly for a successive chapter in any series, this one stands on its own without needing to have seen the first two movies (though I doubt many besides my friend find themselves in that situation). The opening ten to fifteen minutes provide all the background necessary to make this third adventure its own separate entry that can be filed with the others or taken all by itself.

More so than in most other films, it’s the collection of characters that really makes for a winning combination. A new set of toys is introduced at the day care, which most memorably includes teddy bear Lotso (Ned Beatty) and Barbie’s hilarious soul mate Ken (Michael Keaton). Those familiar characters from the first two films – Woody, Buzz, Slink, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, Jessie, and everyone else – are all back, and they haven’t changed a bit. While many moviegoers have grown up considerably since they first came to know and love these characters, it’s a rare pleasure to be able to return to the nostalgic past and find that something is just the way you left it. In terms of this franchise, nothing’s ever been truer.


1 comment:

Greg Boyd said...

I've been waiting for this review, and I'm insanely pleased that you loved it as much as I did. Oddly enough, the only thing I didn't much care for was Lotso. He seemed kind of a retread of Stinky Pete from "Toy Story 2", and his past (though admittedly heartbreaking) didn't interest me in the slightest.

It's still a fantastic movie, though. I would disagree, however, about it truly standing on its own. While you certainly can understand it without seeing 1 and 2, there are plenty of references that will only make sense to people who have watched them (such as Jessie's exclamation about Emily and the "you have saved our lives" comment by the aliens).

It's hard to imagine any other film this year topping this one, although I have high hopes for both "The Kids Are All Right" and "Inception". Pixar does it again.