When I first saw the teaser trailer for Toy Story 3 back in June 2009, I was apparently not a fan of Pixar’s latest installment. Looking back, I have to wonder – what the hell was wrong with me? Having now seen Toy Story 3, I am once again glad to be the cynic who is almost always proven wrong.
Of course, my cynicism was not completely unwarranted. Each part of a trilogy is rarely new, entertaining, and exciting; they often are huge disappointments. Combine this fact with the fact that every animated movie will be released in “eye-popping digital 3D” for the foreseeable future, I was hoping Pixar wouldn’t let me down. I’m sure I’m not the only person (except probably the kids in the audience) who did not walk into the theater with very high expectations. (I’ll get to the 3D debate at the end of this review.)
In Toy Story 3, Andy is now a college-bound 17-year-old. His precious toys – Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the rest of the gang – have been left unplayed with for years. When his mother mistakes the attic-bound toys for donations, they end up at Sunnyside, a day-care center that is anything but sunny. Lots-O (Ned Beatty), a not-so hugable bear, runs the place like a prison and the toys are abused by the toddlers who play with them. Cue escape, cue heartwarming moments, cue pure entertainment, cue a successful third part of a trilogy.
The general plot line – Andy is growing up but at least we still have each other – is exactly the same one in Toy Story 2. What keeps it fresh is the introduction of new characters – the villain Lotso, Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton), the creepy zombie-eyed Big Baby – and the always simple but stirring musings on our own existence and our relationship to our material culture. What happens to those toys we no longer want? They just become trash. (Or do they?)
I made a choice to not see Toy Story 3 in 3D. Although I am less opposed to 3D animated films, for some reason I did not want to lose my 3D virginity (so to speak) to this film. I desperately wanted the last installment of the Toy Story franchise to stand on its own merit. I didn’t want to be seduced by a gimmick.
Oddly enough, considering what Toy Story 3 is about – how things stay the same even though they are changing – seems to be a perfect metaphor for the 3D explosion in Hollywood. When Toy Story was released in 1995, John Lasseter and the other minds behind Pixar could only dream of the technology that exists today. For animation in particular, 3D allows for new heights to be reached within animation. The Toy Story trilogy, which began as a story about a young boy and his simple toys, has simply up overtime and has reaped the benefits of the latest filmmaking technologies.
Whether you see it in 3D or not, Toy Story 3 makes you laugh at the best moments, tugs at your heartstrings when it counts, and makes you almost wish a fourth Toy Story movie would be made. I say almost because I don’t know a fourth movie fits logically into the narrative. Then again, there is a reason why I watch the Pixar movies and I don’t make them.