With Wall-E and last year’s Best Picture nominee, Up, Pixar has to usher in a “miss,” one of these days, right? —Not this year. Pixar has proven over the past decade that they offer the best of both worlds in family animation: stunning, cutting edge visuals and a story that satisfies movie-goers of all generations. With that in mind, Toy Story 3 encompasses both and then some. Although I admit that I hardly remember the first two installments, the third undoubtedly will leave a lasting impression as one of those great animated films that beautifully executes the difficult balance of story and technology.
Woody, Buzz, and the gang have been packed away (presumably, for several years) in the toy-box as their owner, Andy, is now preparing to depart for college. As Andy packs away his things, he must decide to A) put the toys in the attic, B) donate the toys to a nearby day care center, C) take them to college with him, or D) throw them out in the garbage. Thus ensues a captivating journey of classic mistaken identity, as the boy’s intention for the toys to remain close to him (with Woody in the “college” box and the rest in the “attic” box for safe keeping) goes awry. But true to character, Woody goes to great lengths to keep the gang together, fighting off unruly toddlers at the local daycare, the perils of waste control, and a malicious tyrant bear intent on sabotaging the team’s entire mission to return to Andy.
As expected given Pixar’s dream team of artists attached to the project, the entire film is as visually beguiling as anything in recent memory. To see the level of detail and emotion in each character’s face is an incredible experience; perhaps it’s more incredible when you consider how the animators are able to bring inanimate objects to life so elegantly.
I did, also, see the film in 3D, and I’m not sure whether or not that was the right way to go. Throughout the film, I forgot that I was indeed watching the film in 3D—and I’m not sure if that’s a strength or a weakness. I know that you don’t want to feel like the 3D elements were tacked on for shock value, thus intruding upon the story and masking flaws within; but I can’t help but feel that the experience would have been just as enjoyable had I seen it in 2D, especially when the animation and vivid coloring seemed to do the heavy lifting on their own.
Somewhat underwhelming, alas, is the score for the film. A friend of mine said to me the other day when I expressed that I’d be going to see the film this weekend that she finds Randy Newman to be altogether annoying and obtuse. Having now seen the film, I can’t help but echo this sentiment. Haven’t we had enough of his throaty, 3-packs-a-day warbling? Michael Giacchino composed something truly enchanting for Pixar’s Up, and it would be my suggestion that they continue to enlist his talent for all their future endeavors.
Many (self included) have expressed a sense of apathy and ennui towards this year’s offerings at the box office this summer. In my opinion, that’s because Hollywood has served up almost nothing that is original and/or smart. While I can’t say that Toy Story 3 is entirely original, as it is a sequel, I can say that it is a fantastic animated film that delivers a smart and emotive story. It’s a nice little package that will allay your box office blues for the time being.