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The Independent Critic

VOCAL WORK BY
Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, Michael Keaton
DIRECTED BY
Lee Unkrich
SCREENPLAY
Michael Arndt
MPAA RATING
Rated G
RUNNING TIME
103 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Pixar Animation Studios
DVD EXTRAS
Cars 2 Teaser Trailer; Day and Night short; The Gang's All Here, Toys Epilogue; Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs; Paths To Pixar Editorial; Studio Stories; A Toy's Eye View; Alex Syntek (Mexican music video for "You've Got a Friend In Me").
BLU-RAY EXTRAS
2-Disc & 4-Disc Combos available; Cine-explore w/director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson; Beyond the Toybox Commentary Track; Beginnings w/Michael Arndt; Bonnie's Playtime - A Story Roundtable; Roundin' Up a Western Opening; Goodbye Andy; The Accidental Toymakers of Pixar; Life of a Short; Making of Day & Night; Ken's Dating Tips & Lotso Commercials; Dancing w/The Stars at Pixar; Games "Toy Story" and "Trivia Dash"
 "Toy Story 3" Review 
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Is there another American film company that grasps the world of the child with as much beauty, tenderness, humor and respect as Pixar?

The answer, quite simply, is a resounding "No!"

Why is that? Have you ever wondered?

How can Pixar so consistently produce films that are so magnificent to behold, stimulating to experience and so wondrously celebrating of the internal and external worlds of the child?

How can other film companies not catch on? How is it that year after year after year Pixar manages to create master works while the "also rans" only occasionally achieve box-office success and only rarely receive anything resembling true critical acclaim?

Seriously, folks. The blueprint is available. All you have to do is sit down one weekend and immerse yourself in Pixar's world where children are embraced and regarded as intelligent and insightful beings. A Pixar film never talks down to children, but instead talks up to them.

How is it that in a Hollywood where virtually everything that achieves success that not a single company has managed to emulate the success of Pixar?

The notion of a third film in a series would be, in ordinary circumstances, cause for concern or, at the very least, a sarcastic sneer at the company's corporate greed and lack of imagination. How many "third" films can you recall that honestly lived up, even remotely, the the series' original?

But, this is Pixar. While there's virtually no doubt that finances played a role in the decision to produce a Toy Story 3, in the hands of Pixar it feels less like a decision ruled by the almighty dollar and more like a decision in which the creative geniuses at Pixar created an animated perfect storm of circumstances that allowed the return of Buzz, Woody, Barbie and the rest of the Toy Story gang a full 15 years after the series debuted and made us all realize that animated films could truly be something special.

Toy Story 3 is something special.

There are films that are masterpieces, but seldom does Hollywood manage to create a series that can be truly considered a masterpiece.

The Godfather trilogy? Indeed.

Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy? Without question.

Yet, the creation of a cinematic trilogy has, more often than not, been ruled solely by a desire for box-office receipts than artistic integrity.

The Toy Story trilogy may, in fact, be our only full-length animated masterpiece series.

We are now 15 years after first becoming introduced to Andy, his toys and the world in which they live. In this year, Andy (John Morris) is preparing to head off to college and the toys who have served as his life companions are facing all the fears, doubts and anxieties that we all face when we are forced to confront our own mortality, our declining contributions, even worth, in the lives of those around us.

Again, how is it that only Pixar has managed to learn that children are fully functional human beings who can laugh and cry and hurt and learn and really, really love?

This is the world in which Toy Story 3 plants itself, a world in which adults and children and toys are intimately intertwined through their common life experiences. In essence, it is a variation on the whole theme of The Velveteen Rabbit, a world in which love has made real the most delightful of childhood toys and, in turn, the perceived love of these toys has made their human counterparts real, as well.

Yet, love changes and sometimes hurts and even disappoints. Pixar, along with screenwriters Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) and John Lasseter along with director Lee Unkrich, manages to honestly yet gently portray this world in which sometimes we are wounded and battered and torn by the experiences life affords us.

It is important that we have each other and, indeed, in Toy Story 3 the communal existence of the toys is of utmost importance.

As Andy prepares to leave for college, his mother (Laurie Metcalf) requires that he either send his toys to the attic, pick out what he wants to take to college and/or donate the toys to the daycare. A mishap occurs in which toys intended for the attic are accidentally donated to the daycare and, thus, our adventure begins.

The magic of the Toy Story trilogy may well be revealed in the fact that 15 years after the original film so many members of the original cast return. It's hard not to believe that even they have realized the true magic of this very special cinematic experience.

Woody (Tom Hanks) is, not surprisingly, the "favored" toy selected to join Andy at college while Buzz (Tim Allen), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Sarge (R. Lee Ermey), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and a few toys selected by Andy's younger sister, Molly (Beatrice Miller), such as Barbie (Jodi Benson) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) are chosen for the attic.

When our attic-bound toys inadvertently end up at the daycare they believe, at first, they have discovered a second lease on life amidst a literal sea of small children all eager to play with them and a seemingly hospitable bear named Lotso (as in Lots-o-Huggin', voiced by Ned Beatty), a strawberry-scented big ole' bear who sort of resembles a stuffed Burl Ives who welcomes them all with open arms.

Barbie even meets her dreamboat Ken, of course (Michael Keaton).

Across town, Woody finds himself separated from Andy and, before long, learns how important this shared journey he's been on with his toy compatriots is to his very existence.

Indeed.

It would be unfair to share with you any further details of the journey undertaken by our tiny heroes, little beings who so beautifully mirror the human experience with their experiences in loyalty, power, friendship, grief and the evolution of life. It would not only be unfair, but it would be nearly impossible. Words cannot adequately describe an experience that requires the full sensory experience to fully appreciate.

The true majesty of Toy Story 3 is the way in which the film walks as boldly into the film's deep emotional waters as it does into the laugh out loud witticisms. Toy Story 3 has one scene, in particular, that may be among the most emotionally resonant scenes ever captured in a G-rated film. Yet, the scene is shot with complete devotion to authenticity and a faith that audiences young and old would understand this apparently fatal circumstance facing the toys in which they travel through fear to anguish to resigned unity. Rather than the camera turning away, in this instance the camera follows each of our players as they resign themselves to this experience together.

Cinematic perfection.

The vocal work, as has been true for the first two Toy Story films, is simply stellar with Tom Hanks again leading the way as the loyal, good-hearted and adventurous Woody. Everyone in the cast has moments to shine, with newcomers Michael Keaton and Ned Beatty distinguishing themselves quite nicely.

It goes without saying, of course, that the animation is nearly flawless. However, while the 3-D imagery avoids unnecessary gimmicks it also, at times, feels unnecessary itself. During a time of economic hardship, it seems as if 3-D could have been put aside to eliminate unnecessary expenses for families. 2-D is, without question, sufficient for fully appreciating the film.

There are a few minutes when Unkrich, as well, seems to momentarily give in to the stereotypical animated flick with an abundance of unnecessary celebrity vocal appearances and, on at least one occasion, a pop music interlude that feels a tad gratuitous. These concerns are quite modest, however, they are significant enough to keep Toy Story 3 from its nearly deserved 4-star rating.

Minor quibbles aside, Toy Story 3 is yet another masterful creation by Pixar Animation Studios and proof that a trilogy can be created in which the third film feels as lively, relevant and fresh as the first in the series. For many who have grown up with Woody, Buzz and the gang, Toy Story 3 will feel like a bittersweet yet deeply satisfying resolution to a childhood journey that will never be forgotten.

Toy Story 3 is released on home video on November 2, 2010. If you have Blu-Ray and can swing it, it's easily worth the extra bucks to pick it up on the more dazzling Blu-Ray format with an abundance of additional extras that will easily keep your child happy for hours!
Buy DVDs including Toy Story 3 and other new releases from Tesco Entertainment.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
    • B: 3 Stars                         
    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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