Sunday, June 27, 2010

Toy Story 3 ****

What was your favorite toy as a kid? Where is it now? When was the last time you played with it?
These are questions one is almost forced to ask themselves upon exiting the theatre after you see Toy Story 3, a fantastic achievement in an already-legendary series of animated films. The film delves into the very existential nature of toys as they are- objects, not living things. Of course, in these films, it's not just children's imaginations- they really do come to life when the little tykes aren't around. But while at least a couple of scenes are very emotional and have reduced many a full-grown man to tears, the film brings Pixar's usual wit and humor to the mix to make this one of the best the studio has produced.
This film is set many years after the first two, when owner Andy is 17 and going off to college in a matter of days. He still clings to a few old toys despite never playing with them anymore. The only ones left are our heroes: Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Rex, Hamm, Slinky, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and three little green aliens. (His younger sister's old Barbie doll also comes along.) He cleans out his room and the toys get thrown in a trash bag bound for the attic. A misunderstanding sends them to Sunnyside Daycare center, which at first seems like a haven for unloved toys where they can be played with every day, but as they soon discover, the toddlers like to play rough and the other toys have their own rules about how the place runs. Woody gets separated from the rest of the group and has his own adventure involving a little girl bringing him home. Once they're reunited, the film turns into a brilliant child's version of a prison-escape adventure where the toys attempt to break out to get back to Andy's house. New characters are all over the place, but the highlight is Ken, Barbie's other half, who's obsessed with clothes and good looks. The theme of what happens to toys once their owners grow up was explored at some length in the second film, but it permeates every scene here and seriously asks the question, if they were to all just disappear, would anyone notice or really care?
Adults can listen for stars lending their voices to the many roles, including Michael Keaton as Ken, Whoopi Goldberg as an octopus, and Timothy Dalton as a porcupine doll who loves classical theatre.
The genius of the Pixar team never ceases to amaze me. Every frame is filled with detail so that you have to watch the movie several times to catch the many pop culture references, the ways that ordinary objects are used in unusual ways, and the simple beauty of the characters and the scenery. Everything looks great (In fact, I'd say the toys look too good. Shouldn't they be a little more beat up and rusty after not being played with for so long?), but it's the story and the characters that pull you in. The only real complaint I have is that Pixar is following suit in the 3-D craze. The three-dimensional effects are pretty subtle and only serve to add depth to a style of animation that already shows depth pretty well. Otherwise, it's perfect entertainment for children and adults alike. It may not be the best of the series, but I think it is just on par with the first two films. I'm glad to say that the most anticipated movie of the year is not only the best of the summer, but the best of the year by far. (Pixar's last film Up was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Could the toys be next?)
I would recommend this film to any and all kids and anyone else who is familiar with- and likes- the first two films.

You can watch the trailer here:

Also, arrive early and catch Pixar's newest short film, Day and Night. It's a weird, almost indescribable piece of art that's all about the differences between daytime and nighttime in the world. This proves that you don't need dialogue or even real characters to make a good movie.

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