Thursday, July 8, 2010


Released: 6.18.2010

Directed by Lee Unkrich
Written by Michael Arndt

Not only does Pixar present you and your family a reason to go the theater, they make "Toy Story" one of the greatest film trilogies of all-time.

Fifteen years ago, Pixar gave everyone a reason to remember their studio name by making one of the greatest movies of all time, "Toy Story." Ten feature films later (including "Toy Story 2") Pixar concludes the saga with "Toy Story 3." This trilogy (and I say this most honestly and respectfully) forms one of the best stories ever told. Thus, in my review I cannot help but continually mention the previous two films and talk about the trilogy as a whole. Nonetheless, I will make an attempt to analyze and constructively critique "Toy Story 3" itself.

You can bet all ten of your toenails that I'm going to do a Top Ten someday for the best movie trilogies, and you can just as comfortably bet all ten of your toes that the "Toy Story" trilogy will make that list. So many trilogies fall short before the end, ("Godfather," "Matrix," and "Mariachi") they begin most promising, but lose some or most of the magic along the way. "Toy Story" succeeds where many fail. I can speak so surely about this trilogy because from last week to this (July 3-5) some family members, my best friend and I watched all three films. We watched them in order... one a day... the first two at home... the third at the theater... the experience as a whole was one of the most rewarding film-watching sessions I've ever had. The fun, genius, and tenderness that this tale of toys delivers took me away to a tremendous state. I more than recommend holding a "Toy Story" marathon of your own.

Even though fifteen years have passed since the first film, not quite as much time as passed in the story. Still, it takes place years later when Andy, the owner of Woody and Buzz and the whole gang (now a much smaller gang), is preparing to leave home for college. The toys spend most of their time in the toy chest, a laptop and cellphone are all Andy plays with now. There is a touching moment early on in which the playtime-deprived toys try to get Andy to just touch them. This sets the stage for the next chapter in the lives of these playthings, clearly something has to change. Get ready for the toys' biggest adventure yet!

A good portion of the film takes place at Sunnyside, a local daycare where all of Andy's toys wind up (no pun intended). We see more toys and more children than ever before in the series. I was overjoyed to spy a stuffed Totoro show up later in the film, no doubt a tribute to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli whom Pixar should and do revere. The likes of Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, and Whoopi Goldberg lend their voices and personalities for some of the new toys. The story goes many places and explores new faces, while still keeping the aspects that made its prequels great. I'm still amazed "Toy Story 3" manages to take us on this wild adventure in under two hours!

This time around Lee Unkrich is alone in the director's chair. He co-directed "Toy Story 2," "Monster's Inc.," and "Finding Nemo," and edited the first two "Toy Story" movies. His hands are capable ones and he proves it yet again. Apart from some new voice actors, the biggest surprise for me of those involved was Michael Arndt (of "Little Miss Sunshine" fame) who wrote the screenplay. The dialogue is noticeably less witty than the previous installments, but the narrative as a whole is rock-solid. Original story credit goes to Unkrich and two of the biggest names at Pixar, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton.

It's no surprise that "Toy Story 3" is the best-looking of the series. More detail, more background, more characters, more, more, more. In fact, there is so much to take in at every second that your eyes will be trying to see it all in vain. Everything is beautiful. There is a white sock and then a black garbage bag, both featured early on, both that took my breath away. I saw the film in all its two-dimensional glory (I'm giving my eyes a rest from all the 3D, though I'm sure the folks at Pixar utilized it well). Each "Toy Story" has taken the contemporary CGI power and crafted a masterpiece for the corneas, this one is no exception.

Another thing that can be said about the three "Toy Story" films is their ability to provide sheer entertainment. They are fun and funny. It's not just a barrel of a smiles and laughs though, there are moments of intense action and strong sorrow. This third installment tugged at my heart strings more than the previous two, which is saying a great deal. My eye sockets refused to stay dry, challenging not only the summer season we're in but the desert climate in which I live.

Each of the "Toy Story" has some brilliant sequences, there are a few herein that would likely top that list. Throughout the trilogy, creativity and imagination are celebrated (as both the story's theme and Pixar's own method of filmmaking). I couldn't stop smiling and awing over the opening sequence. My inner child, which is often let out, had a blast with the brilliant beginning for "Toy Story 3." The setting and situation of the film's final climax is equally mind-blowing and will be impossible to ever forget. It is a remarkably powerful scene. The prolonged resolution provided afterwards is a necessity. It is a pitch-perfect ending for the trilogy.

With all these declarations, a question remains: will this be the final "Toy Story"? All I can say is... Pixar is smart. They'd be wise to let it be (taking a lesson from "Seinfeld" NOT "The Simpsons"). On the other hand, Pixar is certainly capable of producing another gem and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want any more toy stories. The concept they've engineered and this world they've created is limitless (yes, infinite and beyond). This concept and creation actually began the year I was born (in 1988) with the wonderful, Academy Award winning, animated short, "Tin Toy." Many of you may have seen it, the rest of you can see it here. Whatever the princes of Pixar decide to do, all I can say is... Pixar is smart.

I echo eight words the incomparable Joe Morgenstern concluded his review for "Toy Story 3" with, "Do see this lovely film sooner than later." And again, I highly recommend (re)watching "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" prior to your trip to the theater. You will be exposing your eyes, ears, mind, and heart to one of finest running narratives in all of filmdom. I look forward to experiencing any part of it again and will someday share this treasure with my own children.


CONTENT: Intense and frightening moments, some crude humor.

Updated 9.14.11