Review: Toy Story 3 (2010)

Director: Lee Unkrich

*****

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There is a reassurance in old things we find lying about the house. The delicate feel of an old blanket. The sharp smell of a cologne you haven’t worn in a while. The nostalgia of an old toy. Watching Toy Story 3, that sense of nostalgia will be felt by anybody who saw and loved the first two Toy Story films (i.e. everyone). Pixar and director Lee Unkrich have combined 11 years of experience gained since the last adventure of Woody, Buzz and co. to create what may be their best film yet.

That sense of nostalgia is awoken early on, as Andy (John Morris) is getting ready to go to college. For Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear(Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the rest of Andy’s childhood toys, they are left facing the prospect of being bagged up and either put in the attic or being thrown away. For a family film, there’s a lot for adults to latch on to here; fears of redundancy and becoming obsolete whilst the ones we love go on to lead lives of their own will strike a chord with parents and non-parents alike. When Andy’s mother (Laurie Metcalf) donates the toys to a daycare centre, it looks like Woody’s crew may get a new lease of life. The new characters in the daycare centre are a delight, most notably Ken (yes, Barbie’s Ken), voiced by Michael Keaton, and a hulking great baby doll with a lazy eye, who makes for a surprisingly scary henchman. The centre, overseen by Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty), is no paradise. He lets the new arrivals bear the brunt of the pain inflicted by the toddlers. The toys are left badly battered and bruised, and set a plan in motion to escape, leading to an absolutely uproariousMission:Impossible-esque stunt with Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles). Toy Story 3 is the funniest of the trilogy, with characters old and new getting their fair share of laughter. Between Buzz’s reset button and Ken’s wardrobe, stitches are guaranteed.

However, beyond the laughs, the clever dialogue (courtesy of Little Miss Sunshine scribe Michael Arndt) and the dazzling animation (compare this to the original Toy Story and see how much it has progressed), there’s a thumping great heart at the core of Toy Story 3. Whilst the likes of Wall-E and UP showed glimpses of heartfelt emotion (and arguably bottled it to keep the kids engaged), Toy Story 3 is full of pathos, heartbreak and unadulterated joy. Children will cry, but so will their mothers and fathers. There should be something silly about getting teary over pieces of plastic, but Pixar’s strength has always been their commitment to character. Audiences have grown up with these characters, and thus we have no choice but react as we watch them be emotive, be pained and be put in mortal danger. Toy Story 3 has not just avoided Godfather III syndrome; it is the equal of its predecessors and, as such, is a masterpiece of animation. When it comes to the pursuit of quality, Pixar clearly pay great heed to Buzz’s classic line “To infinity and beyond!”

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