Friday, July 2, 2010

Review - Toy Story 3

With Andy preparing to leave for college, his mother gives him two options for all his old stuff. Either store it in the attic or donate it to charity, leaving everything else to end up in the trash. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bulls Eye, Rex, Hamm, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and the rest of the group inexplicably find themselves sent to a day care center as donations. The group soon realizes that play time at this center is much different than they expected and want nothing more than  to return to Andy's house and be safely stored in the attic.

It's been over 10 years since Toy Story 2 released in theaters but the latest installment reminds us all why we loved this group and our own toys so much. Walt Disney and Pixar have certainly taken their sweet time developing the third Toy Story feature, but the wait was well worth it. "Toy Story 3" is absolutely amazing. Never did I expected to walk away totally in awe.

Toy Story is a franchise that dare I say, I've grown very tired of. Slow down, put down your pitchforks and let me explain for a moment. I have four kids. When I had my first son in 1998 I was already an avid fan of Toy Story. I'd seen it at least 10 times and couldn't wait to share it with my son. Toy Story 2 released a year later and our family fell in love with the sequel just like the first. We purchased the both on VHS, when the VHS tapes wore out from repeated viewings, we bought the DVD's. My son and I watched and re-watched both films multiple times. Enter our 2nd child. Rinse, wash and repeat. With each new kid we introduced the first two Toy Story movies to them. This family loves its Toy Story, but as a result I've grown a bit weary of the films. I never thought I could have worn out my enthusiasm, but alas, I did.

So when the "Toy Story 3" promotion machine really swung into high gear I slowly began a progression of dragging my feet to see the movie. Yes, its true. The once avid fan, father of four Toy Story fans, not to mention a wife who is also a big fan, began to try to slow the eventual Toy Story 3 trip. I honestly didn't want to see the movie. I tried numerous times to convince myself, my kids and my wife that the third movie was gonna be a royal waste of time. I'd tell them, "it will just ruin the franchise." Boy, was I ever wrong. "Toy Story 3" doesn't ruin the franchise by any means and actually feels like the best movie in the series. Sure that could be my worn out self dismissing the previous two films, but this third film does exactly what so many other franchises have tried previously and failed at.

"Toy Story 3" wonderfully adds another rich layer to each character that we've already loved, while also blending in new ones. All of our old favorites and the new toys that are introduced are charming as ever and overflowing with hysterical dialogue. Each character does a fascinating job of adding to and keeping the story moving. The story itself is brilliantly structured, simplistic enough that every child can remain engaged, yet enriched and layered enough to keep adults enthusiastic.

The animated comedy closes the door in one of the most rewarding and emotionally satisfying way possible. Seriously, I was gushing at the closing of this film. Flawless. It is reflective for adults and their individual progressions into adulthood, while also being a positive example for children as they grow. It is a finish that left me completely satisfied and wanting to give a standing ovation to director Lee Unkrich and screenwriters John Lasseter and Michael Arndt.

The animation throughout is vibrant as ever. We've certainly seen these same characters for 15 years now, but  amazingly they jump off the screen with the same fire as they did in 1995. I did not see the 3D version of the film and opted for the traditional 35mm. The primary reason behind that decision was finances. 3D ticket prices are through the roof and because I'd watched the previous two films in traditional format there was no reason to change now. After watching the film, I don't see any reason to see the movie in 3D. Save your money.

Truthfully I could go on and on about specific things that I loved about "Toy Story 3" but the fact remains that the entire experience is outstanding. It warmed my heart and reminded me of my childhood. It kept me laughing the whole movie without stretching the material or lowering itself to cheap gags. It gave me moments to cherish both as a father and as an avid toy collector. It was nothing what I expected and everything I could ever have hoped for in a third film to the franchise. It was a perfect finish.