Toy Story 3

Pixar hasn’t always had the best luck with it’s output, films such as “Cars” and “A Bugs Life” seeming impotent and even redundant compared to the usually subpar work of Dreamworks (no one liked “Shark Tales”, admit it). However with their recent swathe of movies hunting critical and commercial success with new heights (chief amongst them being “Up” or “Wall-E”), it’s difficult to rationalise just what it is they find “good enough”.

Thankfully, despite possessing the usual marks of a poor summer blockbuster; it’s the third entry in the series and available in 3D, “Toy Story 3” does not fall completely flat, residing somewhere in the upper echelons of their catalogue.

With a large gap in between this and the preceding piece, Andy is now 17 and headed off to college. Not all of the toys he (and also we) loved have survived through the years, having been sold at yard sales, donated or simply damaged but Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the remaining residents are awaiting their time in the attic, to be brought back down when they are needed. Unfortunately a series of events leads to them being donated to a daycare centre, something John Lasseter would posit as the toy equivalent to “Midnight Express”.

Inevitably, the premise and characters have lost their gloss somewhat, yet for the most part, the revisiting of old jokes, either completely unchanged or reinterpreted for this new addition work astoundingly well, creating a fluidity that is matched by the simplicity of the script itself. An opening cinematic reproduces moments that were never fully realized in the original and subsequent sequel in blistering detail and for those of us who grew up with these characters, it is impossible to not to get a thrill from these vignettes.

The sheer emotional intensity of the previous outings is here again however with it comes the only slight failing of the piece. In spite of the raw power and wonderful voice acting, the key themes of before, love, loss, relevance, are not examined as clearly as they could be. Consumerist culture is implied throughout and to ignore it would have been folly but to recognize the perishability of these characters gives the movie a bittersweet feel. In a way, it is an accidental genius, even through omission, as the imagination of Andy shown in the opening is revisited later with Bonnie and the idea that as long as their is an appropriate owner there will always be a need for them. The threat of obsolescence hangs like the sword of Damocles above their heads all the more clearly but if we just care a bit more, it will never fall.

To view “Toy Story 3” as anything other than a closing chapter is to ignore the finality of it’s tone to its detriment. Yes hope and joy abounds but speaking as a boy who may need to apologize to some Power Rangers action figures, the changing of the guard is more poignant and ultimately rewarding than the laughs.

  1. June 27th, 2010

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