DVD Review: Ho-hum, yet another instant classic from Disney-Pixar… But this rejuvenated and triumphant return to the franchise that made Pixar famous is no cash-in or laurel-resting—in fact, Toy Story 3 is an even better movie than its already near-flawless predecessors.
One of my frustrations with Pixar films is you run out of hyperbolic, fawning praise for them. “Fun for all ages!” “Something for everyone!” “Heartwarming and hilarious!” “Another Pixar triumph!” But much as the cliche-hating curmudgeon in me hates to say it, Toy Story 3 is all those things.
This time out Andy is grown up and heading off to college—his cell phone is more important to him than ol’ Woody and Buzz. So the toys move into Sunnyside Day Care, a Utopian toy community run by the Care-Bearish Lotso (Ned Beatty) and his second-in-command Ken (Michael Keaton). Of course Woody, Buzz and the gang soon learn things aren’t all that sunny at Sunnyside, and the usual dastardly deeds and daring escapes and rescues ensue.
The genius of the Toy Story movies is they dive into all the conventions and usual franchise pitfalls that trip up other films (animated or otherwise) but thanks to creative innovation and integrity make them sing out fresh. Toy Story 3 follows familiar plots (the toys are bumped out of their comfort zone, they struggle with the purpose of their existence) and themes (change is inevitable, the need for imaginative play). There’s not much new here, and yet it’s infused with joyous, indefatigable creative energy.
It probably doesn’t hurt (for viewers or the Pixar filmmakers) that more than a decade has passed since Toy Story 2. In that time, Pixar films have become more emotionally and stylistically complex (and of course CG animation has improved—especially in rendering human figures).
Returning to the films that made the animation house the creative and cultural powerhouse it is today feels right—like a master painter returning to his or her favorite subject. The dialogue is sharper than ever, and you can tell how much these characters are cherished by the filmmakers, including Pixar vets director/co-writer Lee Unkrich, and writers Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter as well as new blood Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine).
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return to their vocal roles as Woody and Buzz with renewed enthusiasm, and the rest of the regular gang hasn’t missed a beat. Newcomers Beatty, Timothy Dalton, Bonnie Hunt, and Jeff Garlin fit right in–Keaton’s Ken Doll gets all the great scenes, but my new fave voice is Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords) as Trixie the Triceratops.
I won’t give away any of Toy Story 3’s comedic surprises—and there are some doozies. There are also the usual creepy Toy Story characters—one of them is simultaneously the most disturbing and riotously critter I’ve seen in an animated films in a while. And we finally learn the answer to that deep question that has plagued philosophers and scientists for centuries: Where does a potatohead’s consciousness reside?
Toy Story 3 rounds out (with room for future sequels) what has become one of the Great American Film Trilogies–of course they’re also creating a generation of hoarders who will never, ever consider selling or throwing away a toy. After 15 years of features, Pixar’s people know exactly how to play a sight gag, slide in a knowing joke, and flood a tear duct—all with such creative care that it never feels contrived or manipulative. Thanks to that magic touch, this is masterful storytelling and film making.
Toy Story 3 is also available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray from redbox. (As are Toy Story 1 and 2.)