"Toy Story" is the movie that put Pixar on the map.
From those humble beginnings, Pixar has grown to be pretty much the crème de la crème when it comes to CG animation, with only a few recent DreamWorks films managing to challenge Pixar's reign. Films like "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E" are already considered classics, and Pixar's talented team seems to be a shoe-in for the Best Animation Oscar every year. Its previous film, "Up," was even a contender in the coveted Best Picture award, but "Toy Story" will always be remembered as the movie that defined Pixar, and its sequel is considered almost as good, if not better, than the first. It's understandable that "Toy Story 3" has a lot to live up to, especially coming so many years after the previous films. Fortunately, Pixar has shown its mastery of the craft once again, providing a solid final chapter to the trilogy.
Time has passed in the world of "Toy Story." Andy, the child who owned the toys, has grown up and is about to head off to college. The toys have been left in the toy box for many years. Many of them have been sold, given away, or broken, leaving behind only a few of Andy's favorites. With Andy about to leave for good, the remaining toys are at odds with what comes next. When a mishap accidentally leaves all the toys but Woody the cowboy in a trash bag by the curb, they decide that enough is enough and send themselves to be donated to Sunnyside Daycare, where they can find new children to play with them. Left alone, Woody must convince his friends that they're Andy's toys, and they belong with him, even if he doesn't seem to want them. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Sunnyside isn't quite the paradise it appeared to be, and getting his friends home might be more difficult than anyone had anticipated.
It's been a while since we've last seen the toys, but the cast remains as likeable and energetic as ever. Most of the "extra" toys were trimmed off in the years, paring down the cast to its bare essentials and fan favorites. Woody and Buzz remain as iconic and likeable as ever, and the rest of the cast continues to brim with humorous life and energy. The Potato Heads are among the most charming characters in the film, especially as their ability to detach their various limbs comes into play time and time again. Even characters like John Ratzenberger's Hamm and the always-energetic Rex retain their charm and wit. While there is some sadness in seeing the more obscure toys being written out off-screen, including Woody's sort-of love interest, Bo Peep, trimming down the cast helps to keep things moving at a solid pace.
While most of the original cast stood the test of time, some new have also been added to the mix. The real show stealer was Michael Keaton's Ken, who proved to be the most memorable, and most hilarious, of the new toys. His interactions with Barbie did a lot to turn two of the most iconic toys on the market into funny, and surprisingly likeable, characters. Ken is pompous and prissy in a way that fits well without resorting to some of the more obvious jokes, although there's much mockery of his perfect hair and large collection of tacky outfits. Keaton does a solid job with the character and really keeps things funny, even during some of the movie's more grim moments.
Speaking of grim moments, this one might sometimes be a little too intense for the kids. While the "Toy Story" movies have always had their moments, "Toy Story 3" can get pretty dark and scary for younger viewers. There are a few moments that are surprisingly violent, at least for a movie involving animate toys, and I can see how one scene could easily scare younger kids. It's not something that makes the movie inaccessible to children, but parents should take the proper precautions for their young ones . Adults should have no problem, although there are a few scenes that will even have grown-ups holding their breaths. Make sure that you're prepared if you're watching this film with little ones who frighten easily.
Despite some grim moments, the movie has a positive, and satisfying, ending. It takes a while to get there, but the resolution, while a tad obvious from the get-go, feels like an appropriate spot to end the story. There are a few moments when the conflict feels a little forced, but the eventual resolution is among Pixar's most heartwarming moments, and it does a lot to close the book on the "Toy Story" franchise. Even if Pixar decided to end the series here, it would become a timeless trilogy for children of all ages. It's difficult to think of a more satisfying resolution for the characters, and the final sequence is wonderfully done, especially for viewers who grew up watching the original films.
The movie was not without its flaws, although they were minor. Perhaps the most noteworthy is that the antagonist felt like a retread of the villain from "Toy Story 2." The similarities were so striking that it made most of the scenes feel predictable, including a climactic scene toward the end of the movie. The conflict between the toys also felt a bit forced at times, especially when the concept of ownership came into play. It can be a bit difficult to understand Woody's "Andy first" mindset, especially after he and the other toys must resort to cheap trickery to get him to even look at them. However, these problems do little to dampen the overall quality of the movie.
Unsurprisingly, the movie looks top-notch. Pixar's attention to detail shows in almost every element. The toys' movements capture the same charming feel that the original two movies did, and there are all sorts of amusing details that make the characters feel more "alive" while still making it clear that they're toys. There are a few charming dance sequences that are stunningly well animated, and the "toy" aspect gives way to more fluid and humanlike moments, but they retain enough of the toylike charm that it's difficult to complain.
Special praise also needs to be given to the amazing short "Day & Night" that played before the main feature. This short ranks up there as among Pixar's most clever, featuring amazing animation and CG work that fused together to form one of the most vividly interesting animated shorts I've seen in recent memory. The animation brought to mind old-style "Looney Toons" cartoons, including several direct callouts that were incredibly clever, and the overall product is a delight to watch. The quality is dimmed slightly by one of the final sequences, which spells out the overall message of the story in a rather ham-fisted way, but it does little to detract from the overall striking visuals.
"Toy Story 3" is the perfect way to round out the trilogy. While it may lack the absolute freshness of movies like "Up" or "WALL-E," it makes up for that with charm and nostalgia to spare. It's difficult to say if it surpasses the first two films, but as a closer for a trilogy, it holds together incredibly well. Seeing all the characters one last time is sure to warm the hearts of those who grew up with Buzz and Woody, and the resolution is touching and cheerful enough that even newcomers to the franchise will love it. Other than a few moments that are a tad scary, it's an ideal children's movie, although in Pixar tradition, there are enough details and in-jokes to make parents laugh as well. "Toy Story 3" is another fine addition to Pixar's ever-growing lineup of classic family movies, and it's an ideal ending to the toy story.
More articles about Toy Story 3: The Video Game