Reviews: Toy Story 3

The End of an Era

One of the most powerful "threequels" in existence, TS 3 marks an end to not only the film series but also in the lives of many viewers. Pixar didn't pull punches but did pull our heartstrings as we watched Andy, the 'everyman' of the series in the spirit of Charlie Brown or Calvin, finally face up to the necessity of to moving on. Everything from his old room to much of his possessions has to be left behind. He doesn't want to acknowledge that painful fact, leaving it to his mother to start sorting through his things. This prodding at the beginning of the film contrasts sharply with her tearful hug at the end where she wishes that everything could stay the same as they survey his barren room.

This is hard enough to watch already, but we also get a "toy's eye" view of the gang effectively facing permanent exile - a fate worse than death to them - first in the attic and then at the daycare. Their numbers have also dwindled drastically since the first movie due to fates left unsaid but easily imagined. Even after their escape from the gulag-like daycare, the gang ACTUALLY faces death by fire. And as if invoking this primal fear weren't enough, Pixar sets the scene so well that the cliche last-minute rescue is far from a foregone conclusion.

Even when all is said and done and Woody returns triumphant with his pals, the happy ending is bittersweet at best. They all make it home, together again, only to leave it for good not a day later. Andy's passing the baton to the little girl was an ingenious way to keep the gang together awhile longer, but he still has to say "so long, partner" and the viewer can't help but wonder when he'll have to say it to his new owner.

Pixar doesn't push one's emotional buttons in this heartrending film, it pounds them with a sledgehammer. The effect is more powerful for children like me who've grown up with the series and have "been there, done that" like the toy-owners. We've traded Barbie dolls for makeup kits or plastic soldiers for ROTC uniforms, we've sorted through once-beloved treasures for donation or the dumpster, and we've hugged the parents who loved goodbye in our old bedrooms - one last time.

For at least this generation, Toy Story is *our* story which has now come to an end. Not the end of everything, but still the end of something irreplaceable.

Passable, but highly overrated

I seem to be one of the few people online who didn't think Toy Story 3 was some gigantic masterpiece, but a mediocre conclusion to the series, that is nowhere near as good as the first two films. I'll only list the negatives in this review:

The most serious flaw with Toy Story 3 is that it's hardly any fun. Instead, the film tries way too hard to be dark, disturbing and dramatic, and the results are ugly. The scene where the toddlers cause chaos is just painful to watch. Buzz acting delusional and thinking he's a real space ranger isn't funny like the first two times; it was unnecessarily cruel here. The prison atmosphere of the movie is uncomfortable, with way too many dark and gloomy colours. Big Baby and that telephone are creepy. That screaming monkey is terrifying. The incinerator climax is predictable (come on, we all knew they weren't going to die) and it actually didn't make me feel sad for the toys. It instead made me think "Oh, gee. They're going to die. What a shame. Oh, wait. No, they're not."

Another problem with TS 3 is the side-characters; to me they are some of the blandest side-characters in any Pixar movie. Characters like Stretch, Chunk, Twitch, Sparks, Dolly and the Peas in a Pod have almost no personality to speak of. Of the new characters, the only ones I truly enjoyed watching were Ken and Lotso. Another thing that annoyed me about this movie is the amount of times it references the first two films. The popular Pizza Planet Alien phrase "the claaaaaaaw!" is said THREE times, for example. These references were done purely to make the grown-up fans feel nostalgic. In a way, this movie did that, making me remember just how good the first two movies were in comparison to this rehash. The only reference I actually enjoyed was the aliens saying "you have saved our lives, we are eternally grateful!" because I actually hoped they would say it.

All of this is a shame, because Toy Story 3 didn't need to be like this. The first two movies had so much charm and wit, with instantly likable characters and so many delightful scenes of heroism. This movie constantly tries to go above that by being what it shouldn't be. Bland new side-characters, a cold-hearted plot, predictable action sequences and ugly colours makes it only occasionally enjoyable for me. An overrated movie, and easily the worst in the trilogy.

A Disturbing Scene And A Slightly Formulaic Approach To Plot Hinders An Otherwise Good Movie

A long time ago, rumors started to circulate of a third installment being developed. I read that one rumored idea that it would be about Buzz being recalled and it would kind of be about his experiences with other broken toys. I waited and waited for the movie to come out.

When it did come out, it was a little okay. The story is that Andy is going away to college, and through a mistake, the toys end up in a daycare.

The voice acting is good, the plot makes sense, and our characters remain likable and memorable. The animation is world class.

Only one problem.

It's a prison movie with toys. I mean, I know it's a daycare and no one did anything wrong, but a lot of the standard tropes are still there: Convenient Cellmates (some of our characters have "cells" right next to each other)? Captivity Harmonica (though brilliantly deconstructed when someone tells Rex to keep quiet)? Great Escape? The Old Convict? Punishment Box? Wardens Are Evil (and with tragic back stories as well)? Hellhole Prison (at least if you piss of the warden)? Check all across the board. Oh, and now that I've proved my point, add in Implicit Prison as well.

I'm not saying prison movies are innately bad, but when you look at it, it's a little formulatic. The other two movies at least had some originality. This movie is a little formulatic in comparison, and that's kind of what ruined it for me,

Also, there is a scene in which our beloved toys almost die in the fire of a junkyard, and it is played for fear and drama. Read that again, it's not a typo. Near death experiences can be hilarious in fiction, as long as it is played out right (imagine, say, how dangerous being one of the Three Stooges must be), but when a kids' movie (that had arguably never before had any moments as dark) has our characters moments away from cruel end, it's weird at best.

Prison movies with toys are not my thing. Thumbs down in my book.
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