Friday, June 18, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

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Back in 1995 when Pixar released Toy Story, it changed the game for movie goers. To see what sort of images the computer could generate and get us to accept this world of toys in Andy's room could actually exist hadn't been done before. More importantly was the story. They got us to believe that Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear (Tom Hanks and Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys were real and to care what happened to them. Four year later along comes Toy Story 2 giving further refinement to the characters that we know and love. We are introduced to new ones like Jessie the yodeling cowgirl (Joan Cusack) and Bullseye. Then they were put on a shelf for eleven years. But now they are taken down, dusted off and back better than ever. The wait was worth it! It's great to be reunited with old friends.

My home theater is showing the movie in IMAX 3D, Real 3D and 2D. I was in the third show of the day, the first showing in 2D and the theater was packed. It's like schools and summer programs had made a field trip out of seeing this movie and packed the room. I couldn't get my regular seat about three quarters of the way up and in an end seat. I had to sit in the first row of the risers in a handicap seat knowing that if a wheel chair guest came in I might have to move to the front row and stare up at the screen. This movie will probably break some records this weekend.

Just as time had passed between movies in the real world about the same amount of time has passed in the world of Andy's room. He's now grown up and heading off to college. He has to clean out his room. What do you do with the toys that you loved as a child? Take them with you, throw them away, donate them or store them? The toys ponder their fate while reflecting what happened to some of their old pals that didn't make it up to this point. Inadvertently the toys end up being donated to a day care center.

Here our heroes plus Mr and Mrs Potato Head, Slinky dog, Barbie, Hamm, the three eyed aliens and Rex (Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Blake Clark, Jodi Benson, John Ratzenberger, Jeff Pidgeon, and Wallace Shawn) come to cross roads. In Toy Story 2 the relationship between Jesse and her owner Emily translated through the beautiful song When She Loved Me. Many of the same feelings were once again being expressed but not exclusively by Jessie. Their fears are put to rest by a new character Lots-0-Huggin Bear (Ned Beatty) or Lotso for short, a pink fluffy teddy type bear that smells like strawberries who acts as representative for the toys who call Sunny Side Daycare their home. Other new toys introduced are Mr Pricklepants, Dolly, Buttercup, Sparks and Bookworm just to name a few. I'll have to drop by my local Disney Store and see if Mr Pricklepants comes in a plush. I find the idea of a lederhosen wearing hedgehog pretty funny and even funnier when he reveals that he wants to be a Shakespearean actor!

Their orientation is given by Ken (Michael Keaton) who for the first time discovers Barbie. The reaction and banter between the two is inspired creativity. They could probably have a spin off with just these two. Ken shows the newbies to the Caterpillar room where after recess the kids come in and the toys get played with....and HARD! Buzz makes an appeal to Lotso to move to the Butterfly room where there are children more age appropriate for the gang. Turns out Sunny Side isn't so sunny after all. Andy's toys decide to make a break for it, to get out from under the storm clouds of Sunny Side but to return to what?

Overall the tone of the movie is much darker than we've seen in any previous Toy Story movie. Although the movie has a G rating, there are themes here which are very grown up. The last twenty minutes of the movie you will need tissues. Friendship and loyalty versus responsibility and duty. Where is my place? Should I rust out or get worn out? Do I stick with what I know or venture into the unknown? All great questions that are presented to us through the eyes of a toy or a group of toys. Ultimately, the movie's conclusion is very satisfying as we watch the closing credits. The guys and ladies over at Pixar have not only given us great visuals to enjoy but a story worthy of watching.

Speaking of visuals, Pixar is known for putting easter eggs into their films. The little nods to inside jokes, running gags, past or even future films abound in this movie. The big one that I noticed was the Pizza Planet truck. The letters Y-O stuck out like a sore thumb. One blogger over at Slash Film counted about 60 hidden gems. Many are not as blatant as the truck but interesting on their own. Check out the blog post at: for the details.

Usually I give you the running length of the movie, but I forgot to look at the time. I've seen a couple of times reported on web sites, but don't know if that includes the short that is shown in front of the movie. It's entitled Day and Night and is very different than any of the previously released shorts like Boundin', Knick Knack or Partly Cloudy. It's a very ingenious presentation! I'm assuming that the short was about 8 minutes and the main feature about 90 minutes. In any case, it's time well spent.

The Movie Monkey

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