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Toy Story 3: The Toy Storiest

2010/06/20

This review should be a little different, since I can’t get all snarky and smart-mouthed.  Not that I wouldn’t, it’s just that I need a valid reason to, and Toy Story 3 just doesn’t provide the opportunity.  And trust me, I tried, it’s just not there.           

Let me preface by saying that I don’t unquestionably LOVE everything Pixar does, though I do find their offerings hard to outright hate – Cars notwithstanding, and I think that’s mostly because too much Owen Wilson makes my head hurt, and the Owen Wilson car never really stopped being a douchebag even after his revelatory Pixar meaningful experiences.  I digress….           

One thing I have absolutely respected about Pixar is its reluctance to keep going back to the same wells over and over – character and property-wise that is.  Their story structure doesn’t vary a lot, but that’s okay.  What I’m speaking of, is their thus-far reluctance to crank out sequel after sequel of properties that other studios would already have three or four of, none of which have held up to that frequency of exposure (I’m pointing these fingers at you, Shrek and Ice Age).  I like to think the reason for this is that Pixar actually gives a rat’s ass about the audience, and has chosen to avoid continuing stories that pretty well wrapped up the first time around (and for example of their one misfire in this policy, I re-watched Toy Story 2 this week – and did not much enjoy it, just like last time.  Didn’t hate it, it just doesn’t offer much in the terms of original thinking or story progression, and the general plot feels stretched-out, even for a cartoon.  I think my primary ‘meh’ feeling is that there just doesn’t seem to be much heart in the adventure, it’s mostly just a chase film.)           

And this ‘no sequel’ policy has seemed to hold firm ever since then – even a property like The Incredibles, which is set up for exactly that sort of multiple-story journey hasn’t gotten wrung dry at all, which I find a little disappointing, as that’s one of my top 3 Pixar outings, due to its themes, it’s light-hearted nature and extremely toned-down ‘here’s where we grab your heart and wrench it around’  element – one that is generally cranked to the ‘high’ setting in every other Pixar movie.  That one just put ‘fun movie’ first, and invites further stories of family of superheroes, which is prime ground for expansion.           

So with the preface out of the way, let’s get to the subject at hand:  Toy Story 3 is utterly phenomenal.            

Having been thoroughly disappointed by the ’15 years later’ trips to the well by two of my youthful loves, Star Wars Eps 1- 3  and Indiana Jones:Kingdom of the Crystal Skullbong UFO Thing (With GIANT ANTS!), I had about resigned myself to the acceptance that ‘the band should never get back together again’.  Rather than hungry, precise scrappy filmmaking, it seemed that when my heroes went back to their roots as multi-millionaire geniuses, they would all be doomed to look like sell-out elitists who lost touch with their roots and were here to cash-out.  Sorta like everything The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith have produced since the early 80s.  If you are a diehard fan, you’ll love it regardless, but you know it’s never going to be half what it used to be…           

I’d like to thank Pixar for proving me wrong.  Toy Story 3 is a phenomenal act 3 to the series, bringing up it’s predecessor in the progress.  It’s all here:  the ‘that looked unreal’ graphic execution, a primary plot that makes complete sense in terms of the series, and an uncanny ability to develop a multiple-multiple character infested world in which, with few lines or scenes for most, every character has a viewpoint, a history, and a valid reason for being there.  It’s absolutely remarkable – if I wasn’t constantly being distracted by all the detail and cool in the background – or better, if this were a live-action movie, it would be unrivaled in the character-development department.           

Mmmm...delicious PotatoHead....

 

 Short story:  Andy is seventeen, and leaving for college….the favorite toys, abandoned to life in a trunk are distraught over their future.  It appears all but Woody are destined for life in an attic, when a mix-up of bags brings them instead to become donations to a local daycare…at first, it seems they have all been granted a new lease on life, as toys are truly only happy when being loved and played with by a child.  As quickly becomes evident however, they are ‘new kids’ in the social structure of the daycare, one ruled by an embittered scented bear named Lotso Huggin (Ned Beatty) and his henchmen (including the incredibly creepy ‘Big Baby’, who accurately looks like a raggedy-old baby doll that lives in every single daycare on the planet).  Our familiar friends appear doomed to a life in ‘The Caterpillar Room’, to be beaten and broken repeatedly by its inhabitants (the toddler group).  In the outside world, Woody is being torn between his allegiance to his family, and his allegiance to Andy, who has chosen Woody alone to come with him to college.           

Any more than that, and I’m ruining things for you – suffice to say, I truly believe this is the best of all the Toy Story series, though without the core of the original, I couldn’t say that.  It’s fast-moving, genuine and effective on all levels.  There are huge laughs in this, and per the best work Pixar has offered, they are all-ages accessible and effective, as opposed to the tendency a lot of modern family animation has of trading off between cheap ‘for the kids’ laughs and ‘over their heads’ gags aimed to the adults.  That’s so rare anymore, it’s surprising to see people who still go the work to do that.           

I will tell you this:  there is a small series of scenes that I can only refer to as ‘The Adventure of Mr. Tortillahead’ that made me laugher harder than I have at anything in five years (Don Rickles for the win!)…..’Spanish Buzz’ is also fantastic, and the breakout character of the ‘new cast’ is far and away the Ken doll, voiced by Michael Keaton (Welcome back from wherever you’ve been, Batman!) and he is consistently the funniest character in the whole movie.           

Way-too-long story short:  you should already have seen this, or be planning to.  I don’t care if you don’t have kids, it’s a great movie above categorizations, and crafters of this franchise accomplished a thoroughly satisfying and logical conclusion to this tale.  Well done, kids.  I now have a new #1  favorite Pixar movie.  7 out of 7.

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