Perhaps it’s the fact I like the first Toy Story, but am not a big fan of Toy Story 2 that I walked into Toy Story 3 with very little excitement and a little disturbed the studio I equate with highly original films was revisiting their maiden franchise yet again. Fortunately, that trepidation was almost instantly eliminated as Toy Story 3 is above and beyond the best of the franchise and I can’t wait to see it again.
Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo) directed and co-wrote Toy Story 3 and along with his fellow scripters (Michael Arndt, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton) has brought a freshness to this franchise I didn’t think could be achieved. This is The Dark Knight of animated sequels. It’s better than I ever expected and sheer brilliance at every turn. At some point you begin thinking critics may have a bias for Pixar, but when a film makes you feel this good and you’re this entertained you can’t help but marvel at it and share your jubilation.
Promoting the idea of family and friendship, Toy Story 3 finds the animated toys with the recognizable voices we first met in 1995 facing the idea that their owner, Andy, is moving on to college… most likely without them.
Where will Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toys end up? The attic? A garage sale? Will any go with Andy to college? Since entering his teen years Andy doesn’t play with his old toys the way he used to. His interests have gone elsewhere, and his toys have no idea what to expect. So when the opportunity to make a break for Sunnyside Day Care arrives it seems infinitely more agreeable when compared to a potential future boxed up in the attic.
As the story plays out Woody and the gang meet several new friendly faces and some not-so friendly ones as well. Previous journeys this group has made doesn’t even compare to where Toy Story 3 will take them. Pixar animators and story-tellers are masters at ramping up the emotional impact and adding weight to the performance of something as simple as a CGI-animated plastic toy in ways you’d never expect. I’ve never connected with either of the previous Toy Story films the way I did with this one. It seems the visible growth Pixar’s films have had in recent years has now translated over to the story that started it all.
Toy Story 3 delivers more laughs and more emotion than its predecessors and can hardly be compared when it comes to the art and animation. Throughout the picture I was marveling at how spectacular it looked, but I was bowled over late in the film as the outlines of each of these fantastic characters served as silhouettes against a beaming bright light. It’s an absolute showstopper that encapsulates not only the 103 minutes that make up Toy Story 3, but brings together the other 172 minutes from parts one and two.
Perhaps it’s my rather muted approach to the first two Toy Story films that makes me like this one so much, but whatever the reason, I loved it. I may never know if my pre-movie doubts are what made this such an excellent experience or what, but one thing is for certain, the first bona fide hit of Summer 2010 is here and audiences are going to love it.