Friday, June 18, 2010

"Toy Story 3" review: absolutely THE BEST movie of the year, hands down!!!

I can't say enough good stuff about "Toy Story 3"!!!! It's really funny, filled with exciting action and cliffhangers, incredibly heartwarming, bittersweet, and very emotional.

There are some minor spoilers ahead so beware if you haven't seen the movie yet.

This is absolutely one of the tightest scripts I've seen since "Back To The Future"! Nothing happens or is spoken of without there being some seamless connection to a story point or payoff later in the movie. Once again, as with "Up", the 3D is used to enhance the movie and not be a gimmick by any means. The animation has certainly advanced since the first "Toy Story", yet never feels like it leaves the original in the dust technically. The two combined (animation and 3D) create a beautiful landscape for our characters to inhabit. One that feels more real than ever before.

What a joy it is to once again hear Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voicing Woody and Buzz Lightyear, as well as Joan Cusack as Jesse, Don Rickles as Mr. Potatohead, John Ratzenberger as the Piggy Bank, and Wallace Shawn as Rex. Everyone is in top form, not to mention the other remaining toys in Andy's room about to go to the attic because the little boy has grown up and is about to leave for college. It's the inescapable realization that life with the child, now about to become a young man, is a bittersweet finality the toys have to confront. I really appreciate the direction the filmmakers are taking with this undeniable fact. What's wonderful about this movie is you're never really given too much knowing information to really see what's around the corner or where our band of action figures, dinosaurs, dolls, and potatoheads will ultimately find themselves.

I'd probably have to compare the series of events that lead to another truly amazing climax, to Christmas morning. As a child you run to the Christmas tree, wildly opening package after package, gleefully enraptured by each new gift. Except when you reach the end of the pile of packages and feel incredibly content, Mom goes to the closet to pull out a couple of surprise bonus gifts. That's how "Toy Story 3" rolls out. Just when you've gotten everything you hoped for as far as story, character, not to mention humor, excitement, and those tears forming at the corner of your eyes from the depth of emotion the movie truly embodies, you're treated to the 'bonus gifts' you never knew you were getting! Embracing those gifts, you realize you've just witnessed something very rare and really special. A third movie in a series that doesn't fall flat or becomes a disappointment after the first two films rocked, Pixar has broken 'the third movie is never that good' curse. A third movie that takes us to a new level of devotion, friendship, heroics, and even a darker side than we'd been treated to before in any "Toy Story" movie.

There's definitely something scary about these toys heading out into the world beyond Andy's protection and love, and this outing is not afraid to go there at times. A place where literally anything can happen, and at one point almost does. I'm just going to put it out there right now that I cried for five minutes throughout the final moments of the movie. They were tears of sadness, tears of bittersweet realization, and tears of joy. All of these moments brought great heartfelt and very genuinely dramatic emotion, our band of toys bravely facing not only incredible danger with courage and dignity, but facing the inevitable changes of life.

Of course all of this is wonderfully wrapped in perfectly placed humor. The movie never bogs down in the dramatic or somber, because this is still a comedic adventure with very uplifting themes and inspiring, really funny characters.

On a side note, it's amazing to see how Barbie, and even Ken, have progressed as a part of the "Toy Story" universe. When the first movie was taking shape in the early 90s, Mattel was very protective of how the proposed character of Barbie would be portrayed. Their argument was that little girls had always put their voices and personalities into Barbie during playtime. The toy company didn't want to peg one voice or persona into their iconic product. They were so skitterish, in fact, that the production decided to change the girl doll from Barbie to Little Bo Peep. Here we are 15 years later and now Barbie not only has a voice and personality in the movie, but she's beginning to have a relationship with Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton), who even starts out having questionable motives when the accidentally abandoned toys find themselves in a day care center. There's even some slight gay overtones to Ken that will fly over the heads of kids and land squarely on adult's laugh button.

Another interesting John Morris, who voiced Andy as a young boy 15 and 11 years ago for the original "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" respectively, returns to voice Andy again as an 18 year old trying to decide what to do with his childhood playthings before taking that next step in his life.

The day care center turns out to be a prison for our lost toys, with Woody planning a dramatic breakout for his toy friends in captivity. The head toy at the center (Ned Beatty) turns out to be a gang boss, bringing our story into darker waters about halfway through the film. The prison motif is a smart nod to films like "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Great Escape", and sets our heroes on a path to confronting Beatty's teddy bear bad guy with a brief sly nod to "Return of The Jedi".

There are some wonderfully subtle nods to the previous two "Toy Story" movies as well as Pixar's library of winning streak films. Watch for numerous Easter eggs that point to "Up", "Monsters Inc.", and "Cars". Two toys find they may have feelings for one another during the course of the adventure (I'm not saying who!) which turns out to be a really sweet addition to this story. And let's not forget the opening Pixar short even before the movie starts. Entitled "Night and Day", this has to be the animation studios most unique micro-film yet. I really don't want to give anything away! Just sit back and be swept up in the whole concept. Just as "Toy Story 3" swept me up and was a reminder that movies can be so incredibly satisfying, thoughtful, and extremely enjoyable.

I plan to go right back to see this again, and know I'll be returning a few times over the course of the summer. This is by far THE BEST movie of the year(!!!), and I can't imagine anything coming close during the next five months of 2010. Just as "Up" made such an indelible mark last year, "Toy Story 3" will stay with you long after the lights go up in the theater.


At June 19, 2010 at 2:30 AM, Anonymous Allen Pinney said...

Wow. You really liked this movie! Great review, thanks!
I can't wait for Maddy to see it. She is a really big Toy Story fan already, complete with Buzz, Woody, Jessie and Bullseye dolls to prove it!

At June 21, 2010 at 2:59 PM, Blogger LA Filmcutter said...

I was floored by how perfectly crafted this movie is! Maddy will definitely love it, but like I said it does have it's darker edges. Not too extreme for little kids, although none of Pixar's movies have ever really been aimed at children to begin with.


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