movie film review | chris tookey

Toy Story 3D

© Pixar/ Walt Disney Pictures - all rights reserved
  Toy Story 3D Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.55 /10
Voices: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
Full Cast >

Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Written by: Michael Arndt , based on a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich

Released: 2010
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 103

Thrilling and heart-warming, a modern classic.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Films with 3 in the title donít exactly inspire confidence. Remember Spider Man 3? Rush Hour 3? Shrek The Third?

However, I am happy to report that the third Toy Story is more like Peter Jacksonís Return of the King, a triumphant complement to two great films that preceded it.

Really, it didnít need the gimmickry of 3D. It succeeds because of classic virtues: an exciting story, endearing characters and visual flair.

Itís not the usual Hollywood conveyor-belt product. Made with love and intelligence, this adventure has enough thrills, laughs and emotion to satisfy any adult or child. Indeed, there are moments of terror so intense that very small children may find this a tougher experience than they Ė or their parents Ė might expect.

It begins mischievously, with a 6-year-old boyís idea of an action adventure - illogical, preposterously overblown and full of thrill-ride pyrotechnics. Itís both an introduction to the central toy characters, and a tongue-in-cheek parody of the Michael Bay-Jerry Bruckheimer-Joel Silver school of wham-bam filmmaking. It sums up the energy but limited range of a childish imagination.

But then the movie cuts to 11 years later. Former child-dreamer Andy (voiced by John Morris) is now 17. His mother is nagging him to clear up his room, and get rid of all those toys he hasnít played with for years. Nostalgically, Andy decides to take his favourite, Woody, the noble, heroic, endlessly loyal cowboy (voiced as ever by Tom Hanks), with him to college. The rest, Andy puts in a bin-liner for storage in the attic.

A mix-up with the bin-bags leads to the toys being dispatched, along with a discarded Barbie doll, to Sunnyside, a childrenís play centre. At first, this seems like paradise, as they are welcomed by a soft-talking, strawberry-scented teddy bear called Lots-oí-Hugginí (Ned Beatty).

Lotso says children will play with them every day, and when these kids become too old they will be replaced. The toys need never worry again about being abandoned.

Unfortunately, this new heaven turns out to be more of a hell. The children turn out to be vicious little savages, too young and uncaring to play with toys this breakable.

Lotso turns out to be a malevolent dictator who hates the young and runs Sunnyside as a police state. He even re-programmes Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) to be one of his henchmen.

Meanwhile, Woody has landed up in the toy collection of a shy, imaginative little girl called Bonnie (Emily Hahn), where he discovers that his friends are in danger. So he breaks into Sunnyside and finds his chums behind bars. Together, they plan a jail break.

That bald summary leaves out a good deal thatís inessential to the plot, but a lot of fun: the on-off relationship between Barbie (Jodi Benson), ever in search of love, and her new beau Ken (Michael Keaton), besotted with Barbie but a slave to fashion accessories; the tender relationship between Mr and Mrs Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris); the sinister, screaming, cymbal-crashing toy monkey that warns Lotso whenever one of his prisoners tries to escape.

The third script may not be quite as witty as the first two, but it exploits the familiar characters in their unfamiliar settings very effectively, for sentiment as well as laughter.

There is menace, suspense and surprisingly profound emotion, especially towards the end as the toys find themselves on a conveyor belt heading for destruction and they join hands in what may well be their last moments.

Here and throughout the movie, there is a sense of the fragility of existence, as the previously loved but now damaged toys struggle not just for dignity, but also for survival.

The first two Toy Stories explored issues of ageing, change and obsolescence. The third movie takes this further. It even dares to examine the very grown-up idea that some day our lives will have run their course.

Intelligent adults may notice that the movie is, at heart, about letting go and facing death. The fact that it can cover such a weighty topic, and do so with sympathy and humour, is no small miracle.

Another extraordinary achievement of Toy Story 3 is that it makes us forget that we havenít played with these toys ourselves, that we donít know these characters personally.

Furthermore, the whole film has a very Dickensian feeling for the importance to the human spirit of play and imagination, especially in a lovely scene where an actorish toy hedgehog (voiced by Timothy Dalton) reminds Woody of the pleasures of performing. There are echoes here of the actor-manager Vincent Crummles in Nicholas Nickleby and the circus-master Samuel Sleary in Hard Times.

Dickens himself would have admired the ingenious plotting and the ending, which feels sensitive and right. It certainly brought tears to my eyes.

The director is Lee Unkrich, who co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. He and Pixar veterans John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton are credited with the story, though the screenplay is by the admirable Michael Arndt, who rightly won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine.

They have come up with a masterpiece of animation: a sweet, moving, humane story with heartfelt ideas about the importance of imagination, loyalty and responsibility.

Other films, plays and ballets have captured how toys move. Only the Toy Story movies have conveyed the way toys might think.

This is one of Pixarís finest, and proof yet again that thereís no need to dismiss the best family films as kidsí stuff. This could easily prove to be the most grown-up film of the year.

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