We don’t usually do movie reviews here at Toy-TMA, but the Toy Story series is different; these movies explain why a website like this one exists in the first place. We, as complicated beings, hold so much affection for our playthings, and these movies are big salutes to our reliable, inanimate friends.
So, how does Pixar’s first “threequel” stack up for general audiences?
Well, Pixar has never really made a bad movie. They have the best track record of any other animation studio, and Toy Story 3 is the best example of their formula: timeless humor, sincere emotion, and competent action that is necessary to the plot.
As we all saw in the trailers, Woody and Buzz and the gang have a big problem: Andy, their beloved owner, is now headed for college. While loyal Woody is positive that they will be lovingly stored in the attic, the rest are scared of being trashed. Instead, the most interesting direction is taken when they get mistakenly donated to a daycare center.
Through the film, Andy’s toys are torn between their new life (and all the playtime that comes with it) and their devotion to Andy. They meet some new friends and enemies, and eventually embark on their biggest adventure yet. I refuse to give any more of the plot away, but I’ll just say that it is a tightly-written, easily segmented script.
It services long-time fans of the series and newcomers alike, and the screenwriters thankfully left out current pop-culture references in favor of well-crafted puns and sight gags. Sure, when Shrek and his pals had a Matrix parody in their first film, it was funny. Watch that movie again now, though, and it just seems so dated. Meanwhile, Toy Story 3 gives you the timeless gags that involve Spanish-speaking toys and my favorite, the tortilla. I won’t say anything more.
It is incredibly funny. But Pixar never stops there; this film is heartbreaking in spots. I’m glad I saw it in 3D, because I had glasses to obscure the girlish tears in my eyes. One scene in particular is more stirring and emotionally exhausting than the final act of Return of the King.
As far as visuals, this film is naturally beautiful. The colors are realistic for animation, but they also pop in the way Pixar always does. I’m always impressed with the character faces, as they are never rubber-faced like the animated characters that Dreamworks sometimes pawns off. These are solid physical beings, and they have specific dimensions and weight.
While I’m not convinced about the 3D comeback in Hollywood, it is used with restraint and professionalism for Toy Story 3. The glasses are always distracting, but the effect itself was mainly utilized to enhance depth and perspective, which only made the visuals more realistic.
My favorite aspect of Pixar films is always the inspired voice acting. Toy Story started that trend in 1995, and this one follows it up perfectly and consistently. Tom Hanks is perfectly charming as Woody, Tim Allen returns as his best character to date, et cetera. Of note is the improvement of Joan Cusack as Jesse the Yodeling Cowgirl. In the first sequel, I liked her despite her over-the-top enthusiasm. Here, she is much more nuanced and restrained. The newcomers include the legendary Ned Beatty as Lotso, and Michael Keaton as Barbie’s classy boy-toy Ken (be quiet…that was funny). Keaton is soft and soothing at times and amped up at others, which is perfect for Ken’s different personality traits that come out. Beatty is clearly enjoying himself as the stuffed bear patriarch. The remarkable thing about this huge cast is that their collective celebrity never distracts away from the characters they play. When Eddie Murphy plays Donkey, you never stop thinking of him as Eddie Murphy. Here, I didn’t even pick up on Don Rickles, Timothy Dalton, or Laurie Metcalf…and those are some distinct voices.
So, why is this such a big deal? Because this movie is in a position to be the biggest film of the summer. Think about it: fifteen years worth of fans, audiences of all ages, the 3D option, and virtually no fresh competition for several weeks. This puppy could break records.
I hope it does, too. I loved this movie. I grew up with Andy, and I write for a toy website. This movie was made for me, because it reinforces the same idea behind the Forget-Me-Not articles on this site: your toys are an early part of what makes you a developed person. Don’t forget your toys, and don’t forget Andy’s. I give Toy Story 3 ten Mr. Potato Head body parts out of ten (count them up, that’s how many he has!).