There are many of us who feel like they’ve grown up with the toys of Toy Story 3. It’s almost as if they’ve been our toys as much as Andy’s. Woody and the gang are back for the third (and final?) installment of the series that skyrocketed Pixar to the top 15 years ago in 1995. Holy crap… I’m old. So, has Pixar done it yet again? Or is the franchise getting moldy and stale (just like me)? Let’s lay it all out, shall we?
- Director: Lee Unkrich
- Writers: Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
- Cast: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Ned Beatty (Lotso), Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), Michael Keaton (Ken)
- Pixar Does It Again: “How do they do it?” is the only thing that comes to mind? Time and time again they prove that they are the titans of storytelling and refuse to put out something sub-par into the world. Every little detail is there. When a scene is funny, they ask how they can make it funnier. If a scene is heartfelt, they won’t stop until you’re sobbing. The third time around with the same set of characters and they hit it out of the ballpark. Name another franchise that can make three films of a series as close to perfect as possible? We’re waiting!
- Comedy: It is back in full force. Little Miss Sunshine scribe Michael Arndt is a perfect fit at Pixar. He had perfect timing and incredible imagination to make us laugh as we remember our own childhood toys. Nothing feels gimmicky or forced. Everything flows naturally, which is surprising after coming back to these characters for the third time. You would think they would be running out of the “toy jokes”. Nope.
- El Buzzo/Mr. Tortilla Head: You’ll know it when you see it. And you’ll love it.
- New Toys: How do you keep a franchise fresh? Introduce new characters, of course! There is the Pixar way, and then there is the Michael Bay way. I think it’s safe to say Pixar wins. Sorry kids, no racist toys. Pixar took a risk in adding quite a plethora of new characters to this one. The best part is that none of them felt contrived or unwelcome; they all had their part to the story… even if it was just for one laugh. The most memorable ones (and scene stealers) were Ken and Barbie, Chuckles, and Mr. Pricklepants.
- The Scope: Holy crap did this feel big. The world just felt very thought out and large with all of the locations introduced.
The (Not Really Bad) Bad:
- No One Believes Woody (again): It seems like in all three movies, the one thing that gets everyone in a big mess is the rest of the toys not believing what Woody says. The act of everyone not listening felt a bit repetitive in the moment, but once it passed, you’ve moved on and it’s really not enough to bring you down. You want to see how they’re getting out of this one… again.
- Missing Old Characters: I did miss seeing some of Andy’s background toys from the first couple of films. But it made sense for them to not be around as Andy is about to head to college. No one keeps all their old toys… just the important ones. It made complete sense for the story and they had to do it. They were still missed (although, he new ones made up for their lack of presence).
- Lots-o-Huggin’ Bear: Definitely a formidable and evil villain. He just reminds me a lot of the Old Proctor from the last movie. Again: It’s not bad, just a bit too familiar.
- The Darkness: Not sure if this is necessarily “bad”, but the film is very heavy. I personally enjoyed this darker tone, but some may have it rub them the wrong way. Pixar knows how to get inside of your body and turn on the tear valve. It seems like the only accurate words to describe the feeling that this film is that it didn’t feel “safe.” In the other movies, you knew everyone would be back in the comfort of Andy’s room after their adventure. From the very beginning of this movie, there is this foreboding feeling and you realize that you don’t know how it’s going to end. Pixar has proven that they know how to tackle the themes of growing up and death quite well. Toy Story 3 is definitely no exception.
They did it again. The third movie definitely feels a lot different than the first two. It is darker, larger, and plays with heavier themes. You don’t have that worthless laughter you had with the others. Pixar really puts you on the edge of your seat here, and you will truly care about what will become of Andy’s (and our) favorite set of toys when he goes off to college. Again, the mixture of laughter and tears is in full effect. If you don’t have a tear or two rolling down your cheek in the last 30 minutes, then you’re probably a heartless Decepticon.
Rating: 9.5/10 (because nobody’s perfect)
Toy Story 3 hits theaters on June 18th!