Toy Story 3 (2010) dir. Lee Unkrich
Voices by: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles
By Alan Bacchus
Those who read this blog might know my difficulty in reviewing these CG animated films and my often overly critical buzzkiller opinions of lauded Pixar films such as Cars, Wall-E or Ratatouille, films which admittedly are technical marvels, cleverly written, but suffered from a stale cartoonish sameness which has left me desiring more from the medium.
There's nothing new about Toy Story 3, after a 10 year hiatus from the series which started this new medium of animation. After all these other successful and critically acclained Pixar films, Toy Story is still the best of this bunch, consistently maxing out the potential of the computer animation technology.
So why does Toy Story 3 feel so much more entertaining from these adult eyes, than Up or Ratatouille, or Wall-E?
For one, human characters are kept to a minimum, something in which CG is still light years behind. As such crafting a story made almost entirely from inanimate toys render animate with the same scale, detail and articulation as they are in real life is the best way to present this medium.
The beautiful photorealism is as astonishing as it was in 1995. Even after all these years and all these CG films, I still haven’t gotten used to to the dramatic eye popping effect of seeing these pristine images flash before our eyes.
The opening is a rambunctious Western style action sequence aboard a train, a sequence not unlike the opening action of a Bond film, a scene which has no real narrative purpose other than to jumpstart us on the rollercoaster ride of fun.
The core story fits in naturally with the time elapsed since Toy Story 2. Andy, the owner of the loveable group of toys which includes Buzz Lightyear and Woody, has grown up and is off to college. Woody finds himself in Andy's dufflebag ready to go to college with him while the other toys, destined for the attic, inadvertantly get shipped to the local daycare. Woody escapes the duffle bag and hopes to save his buddies from onslaught of toy-destruction that is Sunnyside Daycare. Once there, the toys find a sinister authority figure in Lotso, a disgruntled stuffed bear that rules the other toys like Stalin.
Eventually Woody engineers an exciting escape from Lotso's clutches and back into their home at Andy's house. But without Andy do the toys have a purpose or are they obsolete?
Other than the technical action sequences, witty dialogue and stunning visual design of the Toy Story world, the film resonates warmly as a metaphor for the obsolence we all feel once we are past our prime and without need or purpose.
The characters we remember from the first two films are still the same, but we never get bored of Woody and Buzz, because as voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen they are as endearing characters from serialized television (the best part of serialized television).
Lotso, the obsolete teddy bear make's a fine new adversary. His flashback which shows the origin of his self-loathing is particularly emotional. It not shows how his obsolence morphed into displaced anger, but 'humanizes' the enemy and even foreshadows the fate of Woody and Buzz if they can't make a new life without Andy fulfilling.
Lotso's gang of hoodlum toys provide great support. The ambiguously gay Ken doll for instance who has an obsession with his wardrobe is marvelous, same with the grotesque and brutish mute baby doll who assumes the silent strong man role of the group.
Every character seems to be given adequate attention and relevance to the grander world of Toy Story at large. Though I have no doubt Pixar could adequately produce more of these films with almost equal entertainment value, but the final moments of this film close out the lifecycle of these characters so perfectly, it's the absolute best way to go in style.
Toy Story 3 is available on Blu-Ray from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment