Toy Story 3
Seeing as how it was the original Toy Story, 15-years-ago now, that not only put Pixar on the map but also set them on their path towards world domination it makes sense that it is thus far their only property that doubles as a franchise. This installment continues on with what the others started, namely delighting children with gripping tales that are populated by some of the most in-depth characters around, while simultaneously freaking out their parents by stroking their fear of death and abandonment. We all grow up, friends get left behind, and time marches on but never has that concept been put in such depressing terms. Feeling suicidal while leaving a theatre may not be ideal but it does speak loudly of the cinematic powers that this film possesses. Being able to wring that much emotion out of their audience while also keeping them captivated with what is happening in front of them is what makes Pixar one of the best storytelling entities in our culture today.
We open, as always, in Andy’s room. Woody (Tom Hanks) is leading a flawless yet futile mission to trick Andy into playing with them again by using his own technology against him. It’s a good try and all, but these days, to kids of all ages, the cell phone is king. The toys are going through another moment of crisis as Andy prepares to leave for college and has to decide what to do with them. The options are laid out in no uncertain terms by his mother: trash, attic or donation bin. But this being a movie, one misunderstanding quickly leads to another and soon enough they are all being shuffled off to Sunnyside; a daycare center for children/retirement community for toys. As utopian as it may appear to be, Woody isn’t buying it and will not relinquish his love for Andy (it should be noted that he was the only toy drafted for college) so he hightails it out of there and embarks on a journey to be reunited with his owner. We, the wise audience, can see that he is incapable of moving past a neglectful relationship, but what other choice does he have? What do the likes of Woody do after they have been left behind?
Sunnyside, predictably, is a rather large disappointment as the placed is ruled with an iron fist by the Godfather-like Latso (A fantastic Ned Beatty), and the toys we know and love are left for dead in the toddler’s room where they are used as paintbrushes and lollipops. Ken (of Ken and Barbie fame) is also there revealing himself to be the effeminately evil bitch we all kind of suspected him of being. His vanity knows no bounds and he uses his charms to deceive those around him. Recognizing Sunnyside for what it is, Buzz (Tim Allen) leads his friends into action as they try and escape what they soon realize to be a high-tech prison on constant lockdown. That turns out to be much easier said than done and the writer (Michael Arndt) and director (Lee Unkrich) do a magnificent job of convincing us that maybe they are just crazy enough to kill off some or all of these beloved characters.
Armond White, film critic for the New York Press, recently kicked up a storm by panning Toy Story 3 (thus ruining its chances at pitching a perfect game with the critics) and calling it a movie for “non-thinking children and adults.” White, as a rule, confuses poking holes in that which is popular with thinking critically. Knee-jerking in the name of contrariness is the same as being non-thinking, not to mention that in that same review he incorrectly identifies Hamm as one of the film’s villains. And had Pixar cast Ken as a stiff, idiotic bore then maybe we could accuse them of lazy writing. But instead they found new and interesting corners of his personality (he is, after all, a male doll created for female enjoyment) and exploited them for comedic purposes. Need to distract him for a while? Sweet talk him into giving you a fashion show. Need to go undercover as him? Simply put on your spacesuit costume. JK Rowling has always been more than happy to take a weedwacker to her cast of characters, but up until this point Pixar has resisted the temptation to do the same with theirs. Here, in a beautiful scene that will scare the bejesus out of your kids, they get marched right to the doorstep of Hell, leaving them little room for escape. Yes, the film lays on the melancholy and terror kind of thick, but they also cut it with overly sweet interactions and genuinely feel good moments.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty, Joan Cusack
Director: Lee Unkrich
Writer: Michael Arndt
Runtime: 103 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
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