A&E Spring Picks: Toy Story 3

Despite a darker tone in Toy Story 3, Pixar succeeds once again in warming hearts with the nostalgic final installment of their Hollywood franchise.
Despite a darker tone in Toy Story 3, Pixar succeeds once again in warming hearts with the nostalgic final installment of their Hollywood franchise.

It’s hard to believe 15 years have passed since Pixar broke into Hollywood territory with Toy Story, the first feature film produced entirely by computer-generated imagery. I vividly remember my excitement watching my childhood dream realized on screen—toys coming to life.

Nine films later, the masterminds behind what has come to be Hollywood’s most consistently dazzling artistic collective have mastered their craft with the action packed third chapter, Toy Story 3.

If there’s one thing I’ve prepared myself for over my career as a Pixar enthusiast, it’s to cry in the first few minutes of their films. Embarrassing as it may be, UP’s romantic intro got me by the second minute and Toy Story 3 is no different. A brilliant short Day & Night, pre-empts the film and should encourage movie-goers to arrive early.

The opening sequence rolls into six-year-old Andy’s familiar, elaborately constructed world of cowboys, astronauts and a giant flying pig. Just as I caught myself being lulled into a nostalgic fog, the shock of the present day interrupted—Andy is 17 and he’s off to college.

The film struck a chord with me so strongly perhaps because it’s designed to play directly to the heartstrings of those imprinted by the original Toy Story back in 1995.

Written by Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) from a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and director Lee Unkrich, the script melds a perfect balance between humor, intelligence and unabashed pure emotion.

As with those that have come before it, a film for kids takes on a slew of adult responsibility. It presents issues of abandonment, loneliness and aging surprisingly literally in the story when Andy snaps, “No one’s gonna want these toys…they’re junk.” In his eagerness to head off to become a man, Andy forges on with only his trusty cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) at his side, leaving the rest of the toys to the demise at his Mother’s hands. A packing snafu brings the toys to the curb leaving Woody to rescue them in true cowboy fashion.

Once reunited, Woody, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the gang escape to the initially inviting, utopia-like Sunnyside Daycare welcomed warmly by the plush purple Lots’O’Huggin Bear (Ned Beatty) and the hospitable Barbie-smitten Ken (a closeted take on the familiar character voiced brilliantly by Michael Keaton).

It doesn’t take long for the sunny façade of Sunnyside to fall. Lots’O’Huggin’s disposition quickly turns sinister, revealing the daycare to be a toy’s version of hell, complete with a truly creepy one-eyed big baby, wire-framed cages, horrendous toy-mangling and surveillance cameras monitored by a cymbal-yielding monkey. Naturally, the environment launches the film’s heroes into break-out mode.

You’d be right to peg this film as the darkest of the three, but it’s just as funny and entertaining as its predecessors. The jokes and quick one-liners throughout the film are a welcomed break from the more serious aspects of the story..

The pacing of Toy Story 3 puts it on par with some of the most gut-wrenching thrillers, but the suspense is interrupted with clever details and new characters to pepper the toys’ journey. Hilarious additions like Buzz’s strange behavior after being captured and reset to factory settings, are put to great use.

It makes sense 11 years have passed since a new member of the Toy Story franchise has been introduced—mediocrity wasn’t an option. The animation stands strong beside its counterparts.

I’d be interested to watch the full trilogy to see and compare the visual evolution of the animation of the characters in their surroundings. I’m not one to pass up a chance for 3-D, but it should be noted in this case the glasses didn’t add much to the experience.

Pangs of memory and nostalgia hit throughout Toy Story 3, when despite the lively action sequences, a thoughtful story about longing for the past and anticipation for the future is uncovered. It’s a stunning recognition of the way people grow up and naturally part from the people and things they once loved as children.

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