Toy Story 3 IMAX 3D review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
Woody, Buzz and the gang return to the big screen again after 11 years, and it was worth the wait...
Hard to believe, but it’s been 15 years since Woody, Buzz, Hamm and the gang first burst onto our screens as the toys with a will and world of their own.
Released in 1995, Pixar’s Toy Story caused a critical and commercial storm, wowing audiences the world over and proving to be the next step in the evolution of animation and CGI.
Aside from yielding a successful sequel in 1999, the film also allowed Pixar to produce one success after another – Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E and Up being among them. All of which proved to be box office smashes, and all of them owing their success to the tale of a boy named Andy and the objects of his affection - his walking, talking toys. Fifteen years later, the story comes full circle, with the third, and possibly final, instalment in the Toy Story series.
But 15 years is a long time and Andy, like the rest of us, has grown up. About to leave for college, the 17-year-old has to make a decision – what to do with his childhood toys? Should they go with him? End up in the trash? Or be donated to a day care centre?
With the exception of his cherished Woody (Tom Hanks), Andy decides instead to store them in the attic for safekeeping. However, due to a mishap, the toys are mistakenly thrown in the trash. After an unsuccessful rescue attempt by Woody, he and they toys avoid the dumpster and hitch a ride in the box bound for the day care centre.
It’s here that the story really begins, the toys accepting that their time with Andy has come to an end and that they, like he, have to move on. There is a touch here of the parents, having outlived their usefulness and relevance, being put out to pasture and retired. Realising that Andy no longer needs them, the toys opt for another life in the Sunnyside Day Care centre, where they will be played with all day, every day, and by new children each year.
All of them except for Woody, that is.
Ever loyal, the cowboy refuses to abandon his owner, deciding to go it alone and find his way back home. Unfortunately, during his journey, he finds himself picked up by another child and taken home with her. Meanwhile, Buzz, Hamm, Rex, Jessie, Mr and Mrs Potato Head, Bullseye, Slinky Dog, the three Pizza Planet aliens, and Barbie, are busy being welcomed into life at Sunnyside.
Providing the welcoming committee are new characters including strawberry-scented hugging bear Lotso (Ned Beatty), Barbie counterpart Ken (Michael Keaton), Bookworm, Big Baby and others, Sunnyside appears to be just what Buzz (Tim Allen) and the others are looking for – a new home where they are needed and wanted all year round. Things soon turn sour though, when a clear hierarchy between the old toys and the new appears. With our heroes forced to endure the careless abandon and destructive playfulness of the younger day care children, the older toys, led by Lotso, enjoy the more gentle and loving playfulness of the older kids.
"Lurching and leaping from one danger to another, Toy Story 3 becomes something of an emotional rollercoaster, providing just as many scares as there are laughs"
Discontent, Buzz heads off to complain to Lotso about the way things are run at Sunnyside. All he gets for his trouble though, is being reset to his original factory settings, returning to the Buzz we encountered in the first Toy Story.
Ordered by Lotso to round up his rebellious former friends, Buzz sees to it that Jesse, Rex and the rest are locked up and fall into line. It’s here that the loveable Lotso reveals his true colours. Instead of the warm, welcoming and good-natured teddy bear we thought he was, he’s actually a ruthless and brutal dictator, acting as jailer and judge to all at Sunnyside.
Aided by the hilarious Ken, Big Baby, and Buzz, Lotso keeps our heroes on a short leash, allowing them out of their cages only to serve out their purpose and be played with during the day.
Hearing of the ways things are run at Sunnyside, Woody takes it upon himself to ride to the rescue and save his incarcerated chums. And it’s here that the film truly comes into its own, becoming, if nothing else, a farcical and hilarious prison escape movie. Lurching and leaping from one danger to another, Toy Story 3 becomes something of an emotional rollercoaster, providing just as many scares as there are laughs, while at the same time setting the audience up for more than a few tear jerk moments.
It’s in these areas – the humour, the horror and the misty-eyed moments – that the film’s real strengths lie. Given the nature of the film – we are talking about toys after all – it’s easy to forget that Pixar makes films for everyone, of all ages, and not just for children. That being said, there are sure to be more than a few scenes that will give the odd child a nightmare or two – the toys’ escape from a garbage incinerator being one, and the appearance of the frightening Big Baby, an eerie creation by Pixar and one of the film’s more disturbing characters.
"Ken, who still thinks it’s hip to be square and would no doubt feel more at home with the Brady Bunch than anyone else, proves to be the most entertaining and hilarious character in the film"
That being said, these moments don’t feature nearly as heavy as the moments of comedy, which are clever and constant. In-jokes and references to pop culture are littered throughout, as are moments of genuine hilarity and slapstick comedy. However, the most hilarious aspect of Toy Story 3 has to be the character of Ken. The toy who still thinks it’s hip to be square and would no doubt feel more at home with the Brady Bunch than anyone else, proves to be the most entertaining and hilarious character in the film. His obsession with fashion and a desire for disco allow for some of the funniest moments in the movie, with the same applying to his troubled relationship with Barbie - both characters play off one another with hilarious results. Playing Ken, Michael Keaton does his past achievements proud and reminds everyone what a wonderful talent he still is.
Not that the characters we’ve all come to know and love over the years don’t play their part. The talents of Hanks as Woody and Allen as Buzz are a given, but it’s easy to forget the brilliance and magic that the other actors bring to these films. John Ratzenberger as Hamm continues to deliver the goods, likewise for Wallace Shawn as Rex. Those, alongside the talents of Joan Cusack, Don Rickles and Blake Clark, prove that this is still a cast that works well together and almost guarantees a good film.
It goes without saying though, that actors and their characters are only as good as the lines their writers give them. Nothing could be truer than this for Toy Story 3, with the writers surpassing all that has gone before and possibly creating the best film in the franchise. While the first Toy Story was a work of genius and Toy Story 2 a worthy sequel, it’s Toy Story 3 that proves to be the funniest, most entertaining and most heartfelt. The story provides a fitting and fond farewell to the characters and story without rehashing all that’s gone before. Providing non-stop entertainment from start to finish, it’s good to see that the writers haven’t rested on their laurels and simply stuck with what worked in the past. While the characters are already established and we feel comfortable around them, the actors and writers have not become lazy or complacent in what they can do with them, Buzz in particular proving something of a revelation this time around.
"It’s films such as Toy Story 3 that 3D and the IMAX were made for – entertainment in its purest and most direct form"
This brings us to one of the film’s more defining aspects - the animation. While all of Pixar’s features have been visually and aesthetically stunning, there seems to be something more to it this time around. It’s true that Pixar, like Andy, has grown up too, maturing along the way and perfecting that which they do best. The viewing is made all the richer for being in 3D, and made even more impressive when viewed on the IMAX screen. It’s films such as Toy Story 3 that 3D and the IMAX were made for – entertainment in its purest and most direct form. With the animation perfect it must be so tempting to abuse the 3D technology on offer and ram the film down our throats, but this is not the case. Like Avatar, the use of 3D is subtle and not overly intrusive; it enhances and enriches the viewing experience to the proper extent, without jumping out at you every five seconds.
It goes without saying then that Toy Story 3 will be a commercial success, but will it be a critical one? The answer is yes. There are none, if any, flaws to be found with the film. Unlike Shrek, the Toy Story franchise has managed to stay fresh and entertaining, without relying on what’s worked before. The characters still provide us with fantastic entertainment, while the introduction of new characters opens up the story and allows for more originality in the franchise.
If there is to be criticism then it should be of the film’s underlying message of family, unity and sticking together. No bad thing, you might add, and you’d be right, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. Family, unity and sticking together are all good, wholesome and worthwhile things. The only problem is that it’s got Disney’s sticky fingerprints all over it. One of the reasons Disney films do not fare so well these days is because the sickly sweet message of being good and wholesome no longer flies with audiences - they have a tendency to throw up. But this is where Pixar are clever; the message is there and it’s for all to see, even allowing for some of the film’s most touching moments, but it’s not up close and in your face; it’s a more subtle and discreet message, worked in cleverly and will probably be spotted by those with only the most cynical of eyes.
"This really is Pixar on top of their game and showing everyone how it’s done"
Criticisms such as this, though, are weak at best when considered against the film as a whole. This really is Pixar on top of their game and showing everyone how it’s done. The film is a must see for audiences of all ages, old and new alike, and as it was intended. There are equal measures of comedy and drama throughout, while moments of terror and danger keep the film from getting comfortable. And while this can, and should, be seen as the very last Toy Story, the ending of Toy Story 3 leaves it open enough for a new series of films to carry on the franchise. It does seem to be the case with Pixar that the possibilities are endless, and Toy Story seems to be no exception.
Entertainment of the highest order, Toy Story 3 really is a film for everyone. Go and see it.
TITLE: Toy Story 3 (3D IMAX)
RELEASE DATE: 29th July 2010
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