Thursday 22 July 2010

Review: Toy Story 3

Year: 2010
Director: Lee Unkrick
Screenplay: Michael Arndt
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Micheal Keaton

Synopsis is here

We've known these characters for over 15 years now and it shows. Watching Toy Story 3 is almost like hanging out with old friends. The films colorful and exciting beginning not only throws you straight into the action but reminds you of how much you may have loved these characters. From those knowing voices to the charming asides, if you've watched the other films in quick succession you may believe like Toy Story 3 has hopped onto the nostalgia train and exploited the cargo as much as Indy 4, Transformers, Predators et all.

Not true.

Pixar have taken one of their tent-pole attractions and enhanced it ten-fold. There's even more at stake now, the scope is larger and the animation is bolder. The (unnoticeable and therefore unnecessary) 3-D hasn't been the big draw for the movie, and why should it be? Pixar have the gall to use their characters, situation and narrative to engross, not the gimmick. To trot out these characters and place them into a flat uninteresting affair (like Sherk 4 which was so naff I didn't even bother to write a review for) is not their style. They take these old friends, place them in a familiar situations (the film still follows similar beats to the previous movies) and managed for the third time to make them feel fresh.

Throughout TS3 the filmmakers of Pixar manage to place a new twist on things that should have been worn out at least a film ago...and they are still amusing. A deluded Buzz Lightyear? A separated woody? Another escape plan? Yes, and it's a formula that works. However it's how Pixar once again arrange the environment that makes the film so interesting. The idea of making children nursery a "retirement home" for toys is a lovely stroke. Turning it into a secret hell and placing the prison break motifs and moments in the film only make things more entertaining.

To me it's the most "action packed" of the three. We get much more activity from everyone in this film. While before we were dealing relationships between the toys, this time we don't need to. The bond is already there, because of this Toy Story 3's set pieces feels a tad longer, a chance for Pixar to show off what they can do with the animation. There's lots of neat touches involving Buzz and Woody, as well as a brilliant running joke involving Mr Potato Head which had me cracking up in my seat. It helps that the relationships started in the first film and strengthened through each sequel which their peak here. The combination of the fondness of the characters and the bolstering of the set pieces once again made me feel for what was going on within the film. A prime example of this happens near the end where, the film (borrowing from it's own creation of Wall-E) manages to conceive a horrible feeling of dread with nothing but the the toys expressions and circumstance that has become to them. Done are they with just telling the you the story, they are showing you. And doing it better than many live action features.

The voice acting again is impeccable, with not wrong turn anywhere. Newcomers like Timothy Dalton and Micheal Keaton fit in perfectly while the old hands of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack and other don't sound bored with this at all. There's no feel of phoning it in here. Every voice is pitch perfect and deeply humorous (but then again the screenplay is also sharp).

The most interesting moments of Toy Story 3 however, come during the films final act, where not only the toys deal with their own mortality, but the human characters also come around to certain realizations. It is these moments in which the movie find it's emotional core. While not having the impact of UP or Finding Nemo (maybe it's just me and ideals of family), Toy Story 3 reminds of the fleeting memories of childhood and more importantly the power of creativity. The IFC podcast asked the question on why a computer animation company like Pixar would use the idea of old toys for three films. The answer is answered in the last moments and we realize why these toys are keys to imagination. Pixar may use powerful tools to create their stories, but before all that, it was the physical presence of these toys, their toys, our toys, all toys that sowed the seeds of inspiration. When we leave Andy we know that despite having these toys in his room till he was 17 (?) he's going to be one well adjusted young man.