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Toy Story 3
Reviewed by Alan J. Porter, © 2010

Format: Movie
By:   Lee Unkrich (director)
Genre:   Pixar
Review Date:   June 17, 2010
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

Come on, let's see how much we're going for on eBay." -- Hamm the Piggy Bank

When Pixar originally announced they were doing a sequel to Toy Story, I was skeptical. There was no way they could recapture the magic of the original, which is simply one of the best buddy-movies ever made. Yet, in 1999 they proved me wrong. Toy Story 2 was a wonderful movie.

If I was skeptical eleven years ago, I was even more distrusting this time around. The early trailers made it look like this was going the way of most franchise third installments, and suddenly overload the plot with a mass of new characters I didn't care about.

It also appeared that it was pandering to Hollywood's current infatuation with 3D. I should have known better. My new mantra should be "Trust in Pixar."

Toy Story 3 is an excellent, fun movie and provides a perfect ending to what has developed into a classic trilogy. (Yes, I will be buying the inevitable DVD box set.)

The movie's premise is that eleven years have passed in the Toy Story world. The toys' owner, Andy, is now off to college and is beyond playing with his now mostly neglected, childhood toys.

The movie opens with a great action sequence full of standard movie tropes and homages that are a joy to see so well done. It then dissolves into a montage of Andy growing up that sets the scene for the rest of the movie. His struggle over having to let go of his toys (something most of us geeks can relate to) is a heartfelt one, and is well played.

Through the inevitable series of misunderstandings the toys end up being donated to Sunnyside, a local daycare center, where the kids play a little rough, and the other toys are not as friendly as they first appear.

At this point the movie really kicks into gear. If the first Toy Story was a buddy movie, and the second was a quest movie, then this one is a great prison escape movie. The regular toys come together as a team and a family. Several of the resident daycare toys really shine, especially Ken (excellently voiced by Michael Keaton) whose sudden mutual attraction to Barbie is both poignant and hilarious; and Lotso (Ned Beatty) who is determined that the new toys should stay, and will go to any lengths to make them realize that they are no longer wanted.

A running gag around Buzz Lightyear's reset button provides for both plot twists and some of the best comic scenes in the movie. While Tim Allen's Lightyear carries the comedy burden, once again Tom Hanks, as Woody the Cowboy, provides the moral heart of the story, as he comes to realize that as much as Andy has to let go of the toys, that the toys (and he in particular) have to let go of Andy.

The movie, like most Pixar movies, is a perfect blend of emotion, comedy and action; well plotted and beautifully paced.

The negatives are fairly minor ones. As I stated earlier, I felt that in some ways Pixar was playing to the 3D craze, and I still think that. There was nothing in this movie that really required it to be in 3D.

Yes, it looked really good in 3D, but it will be just as effective in 2D, so save yourself the $5 premium.

The first couple of Toy Story movies were told in a way where everything was mostly seen from the toys' point of view, as a result we tended to see only glimpses of the human world, making it an almost alien and scary environment.

In this movie the POV is opened up and we see a lot more of the "real" world, and a lot more of the humans that populate it.

I'm sure this is mainly due to improvements in CGI animation technology so it is easier to render the human figure now, but in some ways it removed some of the intimacy of being alongside these characters and the world they inhabit.

For Pixar fans there were fewer Easter-egg type references to the other Pixar movies in this one, as if, like with the POV shift, it was somehow not really set in the Pixar universe anymore, but ours. This may also have been a deliberate underpinning of the movie's central theme on growing up and moving from dealing with the imaginary world to the real one.

As with all Pixar movies, Toy Story 3 is preceded by an animated short. Day and Night is simply a perfect blend of traditional 2D pen and ink style animation layered over the top of Pixar's trademark CGI work. Another instant Pixar classic.

Pop culture historian Alan J. Porter writes the Cars comic book and the RevolutionSF blog Can't See The Forest. He's packing his extra pair of shoes, and his angry eyes just in case.

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