Film review – Toy Story 3 (2010)

20 June 2010
Toy Story 3: Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen, Andy (John Morris) and Woody (Tom Hanks)

Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Andy (John Morris) and Woody (Tom Hanks)

Woody the cowboy (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear the space ranger (voiced by Tim Allen) are back for the third instalment of Pixar Studio’s outstanding computer animated trilogy about the secret life of toys. This time however, the toys’ owner Andy is now 17, about to go off to college and no longer as close to his old friends as he used to be. Indeed, many of the toy characters from the previous films have been sold or given away leaving only the core gang behind with an uncertain fate.

Every since the original Toy Story heralded the arrival of computer animated feature films in 1995, Pixar Studios have been the leaders in making entertaining, intelligent and endearing films that appeal to all age groups. While the first Toy Story sequel was wonderful and arguably better than the original, it wasn’t until most recently with WALL·E and then Up that the Pixar films truly became something quite special. A strong degree of empathy was always present in the studio’s films but in WALL·E and Up the poignancy was spread throughout the entire films making the experience of seeing them an incredibly emotionally rewarding one. So with Toy Story 3 the question is can it live up to the incredibly high standards set by the first two Toy Story films and the previous two outstanding Pixar films? Fortunately the answer is a resounding yes.

Toy Story 3: Woody (Tom Hanks), Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), Buttercup (Jeff Garlin), Trixie (Kristen Schaal)

Woody (Tom Hanks), Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), Buttercup (Jeff Garlin), Trixie (Kristen Schaal)

Toy Story 3 ups the ante in everyway possible. From its exhilarating opening scene right through to its beautiful ending, it is a stunningly animated and written film. The advances in the animation are most apparent in the animation of the human characters, however, the doll like movement given in particular to Woody is even more sophisticated than ever. The action scenes are genuinely exciting and the stakes are so high in key scenes that the film generates a very real sense of threat to our beloved heroes. Toy Story 3 never becomes completely traumatic but it comes astonishingly close. This is easily the darkest and most upsetting of the trilogy but it is also the sweetest and most heartbreaking.

It is the writing and focus on character that has always made the Pixar films so strong and Toy Story 3 is no exception. The series has an internal “toy logic” that it always remains true to even while at its most inventive. All plot points and gags exist to facilitate the film as a whole so that while it is a busy film, nothing feels random or pointless. A large portion of the film follows the conventions of a prison film but the stylistic and narrative conventions evoked in Toy Story 3 are general enough to delight even the most casual filmgoer.

Toy Story 3: Barbie (Jodi Benson) and Ken (Michael Keaton)

Barbie (Jodi Benson) and Ken (Michael Keaton)

There are several great new characters introduced in this third chapter and they are all endeared to us very quickly. In particular, an acting hedgehog toy named Mr. Pricklepants (voiced by Timothy Dalton) is hilarious and the inclusion of Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton) allows for some great Ken and Barbie gags that the trilogy has surprisingly waited until now to capitalise on. There is also a great cameo by a mute Totoro, a much-loved Japanese animated character created by Studio Ghibli’s legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki.

Toy Story 3 does feel like the end and the resolution that the filmmakers have found is simply perfect. The ending remains true to the growing theme throughout the trilogy that the life a toy has with its owner will always be finite and the filmmakers have stayed true to this theme in a way that is genuine and sincere. Toy Story 3 is a remarkable film and a fitting conclusion to one of the most consistently enjoyable trilogies ever made.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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