Since you all demanded it, I, Don East, is now an official member of the Scratch Pad. I haven’t really figured what I’m going to do exactly but until then here’s a review one of the most anticipated animated feature films in recent years, “Toy Story 3.” The voice cast includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, and Ned Beatty and is directed by Lee Unkrich. Now I warn you, if you haven’t seen the movie, beware of spoilers.
While CGI movies are common are weeds nowadays, 15 years ago when the original “Toy Story” was released, the idea was unheard of. It’s amazing how much progress computers have made in a decade and a half. Heck, compare how the Pixar humans looked in “Toy Story” and how they looked in Pixar films made near the tenth anniversary like “Finding Nemo” & “the Incredibles.” While I find other CGI movies are just bland fair, (COUGHDREAMWORKSCOUGH) Pixar’s movies are a summer tradition and can be a nice feel good movie to make you feel better after seeing a terrible movie. Example, this past Friday I saw “Toy Story 3” again after seeing “the Last Airbender” and it felt with a cleansing shower to wash away the slow paced, bad acting, mess of an adaption.
“Toy Story” was a fun childhood memory for me, somewhere in my shed is my Woody & Buzz Lightyear figures. Granted I only saw it and its sequel on home video releases however I went to the double feature last October and it was fun. “Toy Story 3” was something that has talked about for years. With rumors ranging from it being 2-D to the plot being about Buzz being recalled to it just being a Disney CGI film. That last one made me shiver considering how their non-Pixar CGI films played out.
(OT: I’ve seen the trailer to “Tangled” and it looks pretty dumb. I mean what drugs were they on when they decided to have Rapunzel control her hair like she was the female Doc Ock. And really, the hair falling on the prince when he tells Rapunzel let her hair down; didn’t Samurai Jack already do that joke?)
Some people were expecting/hoping this to be the moment that Pixar jumps the shark. The critics main claim were that Pixar announced sequels to their older work like “Toy Story” and “Monster’s Inc” and believed “Up” was where they finally piqued. Unfortunately for them, “Toy Story 3” is probably one of the best threequels ever made and an excellent ending to excellent film series.
The film begins with the most epic thing Pixar has ever done, a fantasy based off of the scenes the first two where Andy played with his toys with action filled scenarios. One-Eyed Bart (Mr. Potato Head voiced once again by Don Rickles) was robbing a train, but fortunately Sheriff Woody (Hanks) is there to stop him. Long story short, the scene had several callbacks to the previous installments including Slinky (Now voiced by Blake Clark, a close friend of the late Jim Varney) as the attack dog with built in force field and Evil Dr. Porkchop. (A.K.A. Hamm voiced John Ratzenberger in the role that made him a living trademark for Pixar) The thrilling conclusion to this scene occurs in reality which kicks off the opening credits montage where we see home movies of Andy with his toys while growing up.
Then we pick up years later, Andy is 17, better detailed, and about to head to college. His toys are now in collecting dust in a toy box and they have dwindled to the core cast; Woody, Buzz Lightyear (Allen), Jessie (Cusack) & Bullseye, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head (Mrs. being voiced by Estelle Harris), Hamm, Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky, and the Little Green Men (Jeff Pidgeon). Woody, being the designated leader, tries to raise morale but it falls on deaf ears, including the departing green army men who told them that “Their mission is complete.” The fact that several other toys from the previous installments like Wheezy, RC, & even Bo Peep either sold or donated doesn’t help things. A nice touch on this revelation is the sad expression on Woody’s face when Rex brings Bo up, another nice touch is that in the opening montage you can see some of the written off toys making a bigger impact on their absence than just a simple hand wave.
(But we don’t know what happened to the shark who stole Woody’s hat, he was one of the funniest things from the original yet his voice actor is in this one too)
While cleaning his room out, Andy decided to put his old toys in a garbage bag to be put into the attic. When it comes down to Buzz & Woody, he an introspective moment upon seeing his two favorite toys growing up, but he decided to toss Buzz into the bag with the others & puts Woody into a box of stuff he’s taking to college. But through a series of events, the bag ends up on the curb thanks to Andy’s mom mistaking it for trash which will be picked up by a trash man who might be familiar. Woody tries to stage an amazing rescue like in the last movie, but Andy’s dog isn’t the spry puppy anymore. None the less Woody tries to make it in time but he’s too late, and by that I mean the others saved themselves. They thought that Andy threw them despite Woody saying otherwise, because it seems the toys forgot the last time that they didn’t trust Woody.
Buzz and the other toys (along with a Barbie that used to belong to Andy’s sister) jump into a box of stuff that Andy’s mom is donating to a place called the Sunnyside Day Care Center with Woody tagging along trying to convince the others. At Sunnyside, they meet the welcoming committee which includes an insect humanoid that my guess is from the early 90s, a rock monster with a face changing gimmick that screams mid-80s, an octopus voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, a Ken doll (voiced by Michael Keaton, no really) who hits it off with Barbie, and their leader, Lotso Huggin’ Bear (Beaty), a teddy bear who smells of strawberries. Also, there’s a toy named Big Baby, a baby doll that dwarfs the others which had the same owner as Lotso. Your mileage may vary on how creepy it might be, but personally I was expecting the Action League to show up. It appears that Sunnyside is the perfect place, but Woody still wants to head back to Andy’s which leads to a parting of ways between him and the others.
They soon find out though that Sunnyside isn’t that sunny as they’re placed in a room known as the Caterpillar Room and then the toys face a new level of hell as toddlers that are obviously below the toys’ intended age range. All the while Lotso and his cronies get played delicately in the Butterfly Room. Buzz investigates to find out that Lotso rules Sunnyside with an iron fist so that he and who he finds worthy to work for him get the cozy spot while other toys, usually newer ones get nothing but pain. Lotso offers Buzz to join him, but Buzz of course refuses to leave his friends behind and this when things get a bit complicated for me.
In “Toy Story 2,” a new Buzz Lightyear was introduced in the second act who acted like Buzz in the first movie whose existence was to bring back Space Ranger Buzz while not getting rid of our Buzz’s development. In this installment they decided just to go ahead with just that. Thanks to a bookworm voiced by the hypochondriac from “Scrubs” that has an unenclosed instruction book for Buzz Lightyear, Lotso makes Buzz thinks he’s a Space Ranger and his friends work for Zurg. He sticks like this until the third act of the movie where he will spend half of that as a Spanish version of himself which was one of the funniest moments of the movie. But how he turns back to normal is just dumb, a bump on the head like he had amnesia. What a cop-out.
Back with Woody, he finds himself in the care of a cute little girl named Bonnie. (And I’m talking Chiyo-chan level here; you can’t help but go “Awww” over and over) Woody immediately meets up her toys; a felt doll named Dolly (Coincidentally voiced by Bonnie Hunt), a triceratops named Trixie that’s obviously suppose to be a match for Rex, a unicorn named Buttercup (who’s a guy), Mr. Pricklepants (voiced by Timothy Dalton, so that’s what happened to him after Licence To Kill) who treats playtime like the theatre, and Totoro! No really, Totoro is in this movie! Granted he doesn’t say anything & doesn’t really do that much in the movie but still, having a toy based off of a fictional character from a movie or TV show is one thing but Totoro is a better choice than the predictable “Star Wars” cameo.
Woody was able to use Bonnie’s computer (because that’s one thing little kids have in their room, a computer) to find his way back to Andy’s house. But when he mentions Sunnyside, he learns the dark secret by Chuckles, a literal sad clown who had the same owner as Lotso & Big Baby who didn’t decide to follow them. Woody then headed back to Sunnyside to free his friends, fix Buzz, and get back to Andy before he leaves. And that’s all I’m going to cover since the third act is a roller coaster of emotions that make for a grand finale if there ever was one.
The overall theme of this movie is acceptance. The toys had to accept the major changes heading towards them throughout the movie. Lotso fails to accept his owner getting a new one and lashes out against other toys. Speaking of Lotso, he is without a doubt the most vile, unlikeable, irredeemable, villain in all of Pixar if not one of Disney’s worst. I’m serious, he may a friendly appearance but he’s up there with Maleficent & Frollo in terms of evil; his final fate was a satisfactory one to say the least. While some people were put off how dark this one was compared to the others, especially the climax. But it doesn’t deter it the overall experience for me, it was still humor and lighthearted nature that Pixar always offered. Strangely enough, they explored the supernatural powers that the Potato Heads limbs are capable of. Example Mrs. Potato Head was missing an eye for the bulk of the film (Even though Potato Head eyes were usually on the same peg) which serves a plot device as she eventually can see out of the missing which is how the other toys learn that Woody was right. At one point Mr. Potato Head had all his limbs separated from his body so they can latch onto another object so he can make it his new body. It sounds creepy but the first non-potato body he has is another one of the funniest moments of the movie. I laughed my head off (no pun intended) every time he was on screen in that form and even thinking about him makes me laugh.
I’ve seen the 2-D & 3-D versions and both are visually appealing, another example of Pixar eye candy. Music was also good and while I know some people don’t like him, I always liked the songs Randy Newman provides each Pixar film and “We Belong Together” is no exception as it fights nicely with the credits epilogue.
In closing: Some gaffes do not damage the perfection that this movie is. Pixar should retire “Toy Story” after this, no “Toy Story 4” please.