Toy Story 3 reviewed

Toy Story 3 is this year’s big animated movie release from family entertainment giants, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. Following the release of critically acclaimed, multi-award winners WALL-E and Up in the past 2 years alone, Toy Story 3 has a lot to live up to. In addition, the film is the third and final movie in a trilogy, as well as Pixar’s first sequel since 1999’s Toy Story 2. The big question before Toy Story 3’s release then was whether it could recapture the magic of the original Toy Story – or demonstrate any of the freshness that typically evaporates from a movie franchise by the time a threequel is released? In a pleasant surprise, Toy Story 3 is an entertaining, original and self-contained entry in the series. What the film does suffer from, however, is a bad case of trailer over-revelation.

Toy Story 3’s big emotional kick comes from the nostalgia it dredges from the hearts of audiences who grew up watching the Toy Story films – which began with the groundbreaking Toy Story in 1995. Fifteen years later and the non-toy characters have essentially aged in real time (almost). Andy is about to leave for college, his little sister Molly is a whiny tween, and Buster, Andy’s dog, is limp-legged, overweight and geriatric.

Andy’s toys meanwhile – led by cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Space Ranger action figure Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) – are anxious. Over the years their numbers have dwindled as they were given away, sold or thrown in the trash. Now the last remaining of Andy’s toys will be dumped, or stored in the attic. Through a series of misunderstandings, however, Andy’s toys end up at Sunnyside Daycare, where their initial excitement at being played with for the first time in years gives way to panic when they realise Sunnyside isn’t the paradise they were led to believe. And so begins a mission to return home before Andy leaves forever.

Scripted by Little Miss Sunshine’s Michael Arndt, Toy Story 3 is a sweet, simple and gently amusing tale that doesn’t veer away from the heart wrenching – or occasionally creepy. The home video sequence that opens the film and the final scene are both highly poignant. And although many of Toy Story 3’s funniest moments, as well as major plot points, have already been revealed in various trailers, special mention must still go to Michael Keaton’s effeminate, always “groovy” Ken Doll, who is consistently the most amusing of the new toys. Then again, in an overstuffed cast of interesting characters, Ken is one of the lucky few to receive a decent chunk of screen time.

As a sidenote, there has been some press about South African radio celebrity Jeremy Mansfield voicing Chatter Telephone in the version of Toy Story 3 released locally. Introducing regional flavour is something that Disney has done before, but Mansfield’s South African voice work is jarring in the midst of all the American accents.

In terms of whether it’s worth watching Toy Story 3 in 3D, the answer is no. As is usual with 3D movies, after the first 5 minutes of appreciating the multiple dimensions of onscreen eye candy, the viewer should become more focused on the plot than visuals. You’re also not missing any groundbreaking computer animation in Toy Story 3. While the characters in the film move wonderfully, especially Buzz Lightyear, don’t expect any stunning new textures or effects. After all, the vast majority of Toy Story characters are supposed to be shiny plastic, and that’s not especially challenging to depict using CGI.

In the end Toy Story 3 is worth seeing. It’s not quite as good as Up or WALL-E, so please try to disregard the 100% positive reviews which badly risk over-hyping the film. In terms of mixing emotion and the occasional intense scene, Toy Story 3 sits more comfortably alongside Monsters, Inc. and DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon, released earlier this year. Still though, in a year of movie disappointments, Toy Story 3 is definitely one of the goodies. And best of all, it's suitable for the whole family.


Jenna Stephens said…
Great review. I loved the movie. In the beginning I was skeptical, but then that nostalgia kicked in. It was just good seeing old friends have new adventures that you knew that could beat even if you didn't quite know how.
The plot was actually pretty twist and turn, but maybe I'm just not as perceptive as I'd like to think I am.
Maybe a bit too twisty, but I loved the ending, even if I could've worn they were attic-bound.

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