Review: Toy Story 3

Director: Lee Unkrich

***originally written 26 July 2010***

Right. How in the world am I going to review this? Usually I start one of these things off knowing more or less what I want to say and how I’m going to try to articulate it. People who know me know I don’t have a particularly good history with this sort of film. I *know* they’re family entertainment, and that they’re fun (they ARE fun), that they’re funny, that they’re adventures. The problem comes when you don’t say they’re all out-and-out masterpieces. That’s when you get lynched. It’s like saying you don’t like kittens or Christmas.

The thing is I don’t dislike Toy Story, or Up, or WALL-E, or any of the other beloved CG-animated blockbusters. They are all good. I just never seem to get anything more out of them. Does this mean I have a heart of stone? I don’t think so. I just warm to other things more. I don’t know if it’s the CG-aspect. I don’t think it is. It might have something to do with tone. I don’t know. But I always end up feeling as though I’m watching at a remove. I don’t get caught up in it. Given a choice, I’ll gravitate toward Studio Ghibli over Pixar any day.

And fans of Studio Ghibli will get plenty of satisfaction out of a beloved cameo in Toy Story 3. Amongst the wealth of new characters given screen time is – shock – Totoro! There he is! He’s pretty much sidelined to the role of an extra, but I think that’s wise. I wouldn’t want Totoro Americanised. But there it is, my favourite thing about Toy Story 3. Sitting up and going ‘look! it’s Totoro!’

I know this isn’t how film reviews go. I’m breaking the rules a bit. By and large you don’t talk about yourself but the film, so here’s some of that. It’s several years on from the last two movies. Andy’s grown up and is off to college, so Woody and the gang face some bleak alternatives; be stored in the attic, thrown out with the trash, or get donated to daycare.

Daycare is where they end up, bringing on a whole host of new characters. But daycare has it’s problems, and soon we’re back to the familiar territory from both previous films of the gang trying to escape from somewhere to get back home again. I’ll get in the stocks right now by saying I found this deja vu disappointing.

There are some real joys in here. Barbie is united with a Ken doll, and the scenes they carry together are very funny (even if Michael Keaton’s voicework is practically identical to Tim Allen’s Buzz, something I actually got confused by at one point). And there’s a section in which Buzz gets completely transformed which frankly had me grinning from ear to ear… though this section obviously alienated and baffled the very young audience members who complained endlessly until normal service was restored.

Parents may take note that, from the viewing I went to, it sounded as though a lot of the kids found this entry in the series a little upsetting toward the end. Things get pretty scary. There’s a frankly fucked-up baby doll in the mix, and the climactic sequence, though thrilling, takes a surprising and admirably dark turn. This is balanced by a just-right ending, which treads so close to syrupy, but thankfully knows it’s limits. Just. Oh, and the short film that preceeds the main picture is a real gem.

If you loved the first two, you are assured to love this. If, however, you’re obviously a sadsack like me, it’s another *fine* entry in a *fine* series. I did not dislike this film, okay? But in the end, I have to be truthful. My favourite character was Totoro.

5 of 10

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