6/20/10

Review: Toy Story 3 (2010)


I'm not one to cry at the movies and then think that necessarily means it's a four-star movie. But I did get a lump in my throat near the end of Toy Story 3, and it is, improbably, the third four-star movie in a grand trilogy. I can't remember another all-four-star trilogy after wracking my brains for a couple of days, except, obviously, Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs, and now add Toy Story.

The first film was about jealousy and rivalry over Andy's affections, and how those affections are what bring the toys to life, as well as (especially for Buzz Lightyear) the conflict between one's programming and how it can play out in the "real" toy world.

The second delved referentially into the backstories of the famous Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and introduced anxiety over whether life with Andy, or finding some connection to their own pasts as famous characters, will best serve the toys, as Andy, and the toys' collectible and pop-culture values mature, and ends up by allowing both to add meaning to their lives. They are great and well loved movies, deservedly so.

It's 11 years since Toy Story 2, and the new installment, directed by Pixar veteran Lee Unkrich, lets that time pass like a boat drifting on a placid lake. The toys' owner, Andy (voice of the returning John Morris), is growing up and heading off to college, though he still harbors great emotional attachment to his boyhood and his boyhood toys. During packing, however, a sack he meant to stow safely in the attic gets kicked to the curb, and all the toys inside feel that way, too. So the third movie is all about breaking up, growing up and moving on.

A well-meaning rescue by Woody (voiced again by the great Tom Hanks) saves the rest of the toys from oblivion at the dump, but before they can stop bickering over the slight and make it safely back to Andy's room, they're rerouted yet again, to the donation bin of the Sunnyside Day Care Center, where we learn that rainbows, so pretty in the sky, can also be outright lies.

Sunnyside is run by a cabal of scheming toys, their leader, self-actualization teddy Lotso Huggins (voice of Ned Beatty, excellent, doing a markedly Burl Ivesian honeyed drawl of cold rationality which deceives and reassures by turns) and his chief thug, the creepy Big Baby. It's playroom fascism, where if you can fight or inveigle your way to the top, you've got it made with the big kids, who have learned to treat their toys with respect. If you're a newbie, you'll be fighting for your survival anyway in the brutal arena of the nursery.

As in the first two films, there are again (at least) double Buzz Lightyears (voiced by Tim Allen and Javier Fernandez Pena, both outstanding), anxieties about where one belongs, wonderfully persuasive action and rescue sequences to rival any less ambitious major summer action blockbuster, and a moving resolution with no false steps.

There's also a quite imaginative and entertaining, nearly wordless short to kick things off, Day & Night, by Teddy Newton, which admirably upholds the traditions of great Pixar shorts of the past. I won't go too far into it, but it showcases daytime and nighttime as windows on the world and new friends with a lot to learn from and about each other. Symbols and ideas from the short recur meaningfully in the main feature. Dr. Wayne Dyer makes a short radio announcement, but it could as easily have used a clip from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" or Harvey Milk's "Hope Speech."

Watch Toy Story 3. Bring the kids, leave 'em at home, or, ideally, both. I don't have to tell you, it's a monster hit already. See it in 3-D if you can, if you enjoy 3-D, it's tailored excellently for it. It would be great in regular 2-D, as well, if you prefer. If you're any kind of fan of Toy Story, animation, great movies, see it, see it. It's one of the best movies of the year so far, a shoo-in for a Best Animated Picture nomination (a category the original installments helped inspire), and the likely winner. Maybe it'll even end like Up, with a Best Picture nod, too. Did I mention it's close enough to perfect to call perfect? Because that's what I mean to say.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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