Thursday, July 18, 2024

“TOY STORY 3”

THE STORY – With their beloved Andy preparing to leave for college, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, and the rest of the toys find themselves headed for the attic but mistakenly wind up on the curb with the trash. Woody’s quick thinking saves the gang, but all but Woody end up being donated to a day-care center. Unfortunately, the uncontrollable kids do not play nice, so Woody and the gang make plans for a great escape.

THE CAST – Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris & John Morris

THE TEAM – Lee Unkrich (Director/Writer), John Lasseter & Andrew Stanton (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes


When “Toy Story 3” was released in 2010, it had already been 11 years since “Toy Story 2” and 15 years since the first installment of the Oscar-winning animated franchise. Fans were eager for the conclusion to what was assumed to be a trilogy, so by the time it was released, those who had grown up with the first two films felt nostalgic when watching this third installment, which promised to wrap up Andy’s story and give the films’ beloved characters new adventures. “Toy Story 3” became both a critical and commercial hit, earning four Oscar nominations – including Best Picture, which seems difficult for Animated films to obtain as of late – and winning two (Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song). Children and adults alike found much to like (and love) about the film, which was widely praised for its brilliant mix of humor, adventure, and heart. It wasn’t uncommon for adult viewers, in particular, to cry two or more times throughout its runtime. So, how does “Toy Story 3” hold up all these years later? Unsurprisingly, director Lee Unkrich’s film is still as wonderfully executed, entertaining, funny, and heartwarming as ever.

The release of “Toy Story 3” in 2010 followed several consecutive successful releases for Pixar, from “Ratatouille” to “WALL-E” to “Up,” all of which were loved by audiences and received awards recognition. So, with Pixar’s stellar reputation at the time, combined with the beloved nature of the first two “Toy Story” films, the bar was clearly set high for this third installment. Thankfully, with its 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and multiple Oscar nominations, it quickly solidified itself as a top-tier Pixar. The film begins with a highly imaginative sequence of play that reminds us of the childlike wonder we often feel when playing with toys, and imagination is usually a notable theme in the “Toy Story” franchise. The opening scene is acted out by Andy (John Morris), and through a montage set to Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” we see Andy playing with Woody (Tom Hanks) and the other toys, as seen on home video recorded by his mom (Laurie Metcalf). It’s a bit of a gut punch when we see Andy as a 17-year-old heading off to college, and things become chaotic as the toys wonder where they’ll go. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up, most of the toys get sent to a daycare center, where they’re roughly played with and meet new characters, like Lotso (Ned Beatty), who’s not as cuddly as he seems. Meanwhile, Woody goes off on his own and tries to reunite with Andy – who, it’d seemed, wanted to bring him to college – but instead goes home with an adorable girl named Bonnie (Emily Hahn). Eventually, they all decide to escape the daycare, but it’s not as easy as it seems.

Like some of the best of Pixar, “Toy Story 3” is undeniably heartbreaking and poignant at times. Yes, we recognize the fantasy that these toys are alive, but we also empathize with them when they see Andy leaving for college. These characters have unique personalities and quirks, all voiced by a perfectly matched cast, including Hanks, Tim Allen as Buzz, Joan Cusack as Jessie, and late actors like Beatty, Don Rickles, and Estelle Harris. We care about them and genuinely worry for them when they’re ever in danger. Perhaps the saddest moment is when Andy reluctantly leaves Woody and the others at Bonnie’s house. For those of us who would’ve been around the same age as Andy when the film was released – and for those who were nearing that age – it’s easy to feel nostalgic here. It’s nearly impossible not to be moved at this moment, especially with Woody’s line “So long…partner.” Also, the story of Chuckles (Bud Luckey) is extraordinarily sad, perhaps even sadder than what we saw with Jessie in “Toy Story 2.” It’s almost as if writers Unkrich, John Lasseter, and Andrew Stanton wanted to heighten the emotional impact of these stories, and they indeed have succeeded.

What also makes “Toy Story 3” a terrific entry in Pixar’s filmography is how much it can be enjoyed regardless of age and regardless of one’s familiarity with the previous two films. In it, we hear famous lines like Buzz’s “To infinity and beyond,” as well as Woody’s “Reach for the sky.” While the toys’ adventures are sure to entertain younger viewers, there are a number of jokes and/or references that will go above kids’ heads, which makes it fun for adults. In addition, the writing of both the franchise and the film has allowed characters to develop. Sure, their personalities are intact throughout, but we see individuals like Woody change and evolve, making the storytelling compelling. The maturity present throughout the franchise is so consistent that it’s truly unmatched. When watching the three films back to back, you see the prevalence and cohesion of the film’s themes. To be sure, “Toy Story 3” is also hilarious at times, giving us some memorable, unique gigs and one-liners that still work.

While it’s great to see characters like Woody, Buzz, and Jessie return, we also meet new characters like Ned Beatty’s Lotso, perhaps one of Pixar’s most fascinating and well-rounded villains. He initially presents himself as overly friendly, but thanks to Beatty’s expert voice work, you also get a sense of an underlying animosity. There’s also Michael Keaton’s Ken, who is an absolute delight throughout, and it’s interesting to rewatch this after seeing Ryan Gosling’s interpretation of Ken in last year’s “Barbie” (Quite a different interpretation, but these versions can actually exist pretty well together). Even the new human character of Bonnie is a pleasant addition, especially when we see her enacting a scene with Woody and her other toys. Fortunately, we get more of her in the follow-up, “Toy Story 4,” as she essentially takes center stage there. Because there was so much time between the release of the first two “Toy Story” films and the third one, animators at Pixar became more adept at animating things like fur and water, as evidenced in the more realistic-looking animation throughout “Toy Story 3.”

It is a little surprising that the film is only rated G, considering how often the toys find themselves in scary and/or near-death circumstances. Earlier on, we see the seemingly idyllic nature of the daycare setting turn into something quite nightmarish for the toys the toddlers roughly play with. It’s presented in a format that could be frightening to some younger viewers, and as adult viewers, we can appreciate this horror-like stylistic change. Of course, there’s the shocking, terrifying third-act scene in which – during a first viewing, unaware of spoilers – we actually think that the toys might be incinerated. That moment when they’re holding hands and seemingly accepting their fate is traumatic and among Pixar’s boldest narrative choices ever made. Sure, it’s an animated film, but that doesn’t take away from the cinematic nature of this moment and how impactful it is for viewers.

It’s safe to say that “Toy Story 3” is as excellent and cinematic in scope as it was upon its original release. There have been more than a dozen Pixar features since that year (including “Toy Story 4“), so the fact that the film continues to be so beloved is a testament to its nature as a heartwarming, often sad, sometimes funny, always memorable entry in the studio’s filmography. While we see more of the toys in “Toy Story 4,” if this were the end, it would’ve been a perfect way to go out. In the end, just as Andy moves on, so do the toys, and so do we, bringing to a close one of the best three-film runs of all time.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - All these years later, it's still as wonderfully executed, entertaining, funny, and heartwarming as ever. It's a Top-tier Pixar that is a memorable entry full of hilarious gags and jokes, empathetic and evolving characters, fascinating new characters, and themes that resonate. It's inherently sad and impactful in iliciting real emotions.

THE BAD - None

THE OSCARS - Best Animated Feature & Best Original Song (Won), Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay & Best Sound Editing (Nominated)

THE FINAL SCORE - 10/10

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Alyssa Christian
Alyssa Christian
Longtime cinephile and self-described movie snob who’s probably too obsessed with awards season. Also an actor, writer, flutist, and vegan.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>All these years later, it's still as wonderfully executed, entertaining, funny, and heartwarming as ever. It's a Top-tier Pixar that is a memorable entry full of hilarious gags and jokes, empathetic and evolving characters, fascinating new characters, and themes that resonate. It's inherently sad and impactful in iliciting real emotions.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-animated-feature/">Best Animated Feature</a> & <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-original-song/">Best Original Song</a> (Won), <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-picture/">Best Picture</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-adapted-screenplay/">Best Adapted Screenplay</a> & <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-sound/">Best Sound Editing</a> (Nominated)<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>10/10<br><br>"TOY STORY 3"