Review: Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3
There has been a good deal of talk on this blog about Pixar's near perfect string of movies over the past 15 years. If you make a list of the defining kids' movies of this period, all or almost all of them will come from the studio. And Toy Story started it all. The string of Pixar sequels that now waits on the horizon has me worried, not because Pixar hasn't earned my trust, and not because they haven't made a great sequel before (Toy Story 2 would easily make my list of top ten sequels of all time...which we may do here at some point), but because the idea of making sequels instead of creating original material tends to move toward rehashing overdone ideas and turning out just more of the same. Yet if Toy Story 3 is any indicator, I will follow Pixar to the ends of the earth and back, even if that means seeing Wall-E 5 in twenty years.

The film begins with the sort of overblown action sequence that might characterize a lesser film, but it is quickly apparent that we are inhabiting the mind of young Andy as he plays with his favorite toys in the world, and some great examples of kid-play logic abound. However, as Pixar refuses to let us forget, time marches endlessly forward, and soon Andy is 17 and preparing ot go off to college. This leaves the toys in a difficult position. Woody (Tom Hanks), ever the loyalist, thinks they should be resigned to living in the attic, waiting until their owner needs them again and just being there for him, even if he'll never recognize it. But the other toys, including Buzz (Tim Allen), Jesse (Joan Cusack) Ham (John Ratzenberger), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) are not so sure that's best from them, and their doubt ends up getting them all donated to Sunnyside Day Care Center, which leads to some fun meditations on the passage of time, the place that toys have in our lives, and some pretty excellent riffs on the prison escape genre.

Toy Story 3 is not entirely flawless, but it does get pretty damn close, especially for the third installment in a kids movie franchise (compare it to Shrek 3 and this movie may as well be The Godfather). Some of the setpieces come off as a little too video game-y and reek of being written so they would translate easily into a video game (which was advertised right before the movie), yet those moments pass quickly, and what they leave behind is the meditative examination on loyalty, commitment, bravery, and aging that makes this a great Pixar movie. And for all the game-like shenanigans the gang goes through that threaten to take you out of the movie, there are plenty of redemptive scenes, perhaps the best of which comes when the toys discover that all of their plans may have been for naught, and that all of their bravery, intelligence, and skill might not have saved them from a terrible fate. In most kids movies, you would get comedic panic at this point (Rex is a character pretty much written to be in scenes like this), but Toy Story 3 is not most kids movies, and instead the characters sit silently, gather together, and pass into a moment of sorrowful resolve and deep, lasting camraderie. This isn't just the stuff of kids movies, its the stuff of classics.

Grade: A-


The pre-movie Pixar short is nearly as important as the movie itself. This one, "Day and Night" doesn't have the best premise to work with, but it uses its sheer earnestness, and some truly incredible animation to make up for it.
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