Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie Review: Disney-Pixar's Toy Story 3

The toys that started it all are back in the final chapter of their wild ride. Their owner Andy is all grown up and packing up for college and the core gang is all that's left of the young man's childhood. Memories, photographs must all be packed up and stored in the attic, donated, or thrown away. But what of Woody, Buzz and the rest? This is the question that we're faced with in the beginning moments of Toy Story 3.

Pixar does not disappoint in the third and final installment of the Toy Story series. They were hoping to only have two films, but it was thanks in large part to their original contract with Disney and the threat that if Pixar didn't do it, Disney would, that brought about a long wait for fans to have what we've all been waiting for. The wait was worth it.

Woody and the gang are faced with the cruel fact that all toys must go through: children grow up and move on from their playthings. Over the years the band of toys shrank as they were tossed away, sold, or donated. Even Woody's girl, Bo Peep, has moved on to a new home. All that remains are the classic characters that we've come to know and love (oddly enough the three green aliens were kept). Their one hope to all stay together is if Andy decides to store them in the attic and they will one day again be played with (the hope is that Andy will have children and they will be brought out when that time comes). But, in classic Toy Story style, Mom mistakes the bag of toys (minus Woody, whom Andy has decided to take to college) as a bag of Trash and puts them on the side of the road for pick up. Seeing this, Woody goes to save the day. The toys, after rescuing themselves, believe Andy to no longer care.

The toys run for the box being donated to the daycare, and so begins their adventure. They meet several new characters: Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton) whom we're never quite sure if he's straight, gay... or bisexual. Pixar does its best to keep it family friendly and Ken is definitely attracted to Barbie (and in the end she stays with him), but he's definitely a METROsexual. Basically think Ryan Seacrest as a Ken doll. We also meet Lotso, another toy from the 80s, who is plush and loveable and smells like strawberries... but don't let his exterior fool you. He may seem all soft and cuddly, but deep down he's a heartless and evil mastermind. Think Stinky Pete (Toy Story 2 voiced by Kelsey Grammer) but softer.

[spoilers ahead: highlight to read]

After some hilarity ensues during their escape - Woody, upon entering the daycare, leaves via a kid at the daycare taking him to her house where he relives a few moments of his time with Andy and finds out via another toy that Lotso isn't so loveable and goes to rescue the rest of "Andy's Toys" and vows to take them all back and live in the attic - the toys eventually make it home. Though first they find out the horrors of the garbage dump and nearly are destroyed in a gut wrenching heart in your throught moment. They are reunited with Andy who is still bent on taking Woody to college and leaving the rest in the attic. In the final moments before the box is taken upstairs to be stored, Woody grabs a sharpie and a sticky pad and writes a note ("from mom") to Andy that says he should donate the toys (it's later implied that the note gives him Bonnie's name and address). Andy struggles in the decision as he drives the toys to their new home.

Upon meeting Bonnie he introduces her to the new toys, telling her they meant a lot to him growing up and that she has to promise to always love and take care of them for him and to keep them together. If you don't tear up in this moment of the movie, well, I can't say what exactly that means, but tears were streaming down my face for the rest of the movie. He introduces each toy one by one, and finds Woody at the very bottom. Bonnie recognizes Woody and begins quoting the different sayings that come when you pull Woody's string. Andy once again struggles with letting go, but finally comes to terms that Woody needs to be played with and not just sit on a shelf. He speaks of Woody like an old friend in a hearttouching, tearjerking moment. And then, one last time, he plays with the toys with Bonnie before driving off to start his new life. Woody and the gang watch after him and Woody wishes him a fond farewell (I'm choking up as I write this. It is THAT much of a moment.)

This is a perfect send off to a series of characters that forever changed animated film. To be honest, I do not believe we'd even have the likes of Shrek without first Pixar making a market for this type of film medium with Toy Story. Toy Story is 3d animation's version of Snow White - yes, in a way it'd been done before, but Toy Story made it "okay" to do so and it reached all movie goers, not a select few. The final scene in Toy Story 3, I believe, is a message to those of us who have grown up with the classic Pixar films. It's okay that we've moved on to other things, it's part of life, but we will always have the memories to come back to. We can all still remember watching in the theaters and seeing the toys come to life for the first time. Now we share them with our neices, nephews, young cousins, and kids. It's a new era, and it's time to let go. (Of course, if you're like me, you are also of the Peter Pan mindset so that whole idea is a foreign concept as you will never be "too old" for Toy Story).

All in all, if you don't see this in theaters you will miss out. I paid the extra money and saw it in the new IMAX theater here in town, but you don't need the magic of 3D to appreciate the film. The story - like classic Disney films - is what makes the movie more than just another animated film.

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