Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Toy Story 3

The original Toy Story was a big part of my youth, and the sequel was thoroughly enjoyable, but I've long thought of them as slightly inferior to most of Pixar's work in the last decade, when they really figured out how to be all things to all people. I haven't actually seen the first two since that perceived step up in quality occurred, but I don't think I'm far off with those feelings. So when everyone gave the third film totally glowing reviews and talked up its emotional content, I was a bit surprised, but not disbelieving. I went into the film expecting something between a competent third chapter and the best movie of all time, and that's pretty much what I got.

Toy Story 3 is the perfect conclusion to the series, and possibly my favorite work to date by the studio. It was a stroke of genius to have Andy age along with the people who were children when the first two movies came out, and the story they chose to tell managed to stay true to the adventurous, humorous spirit they had before while still telling the most emotionally engaging and mature story of the three, without dipping into depressing or maudlin territory. I'll put it this way: Up made me a bit misty with a well constructed, beautifully tragic love story at the center of its old-guy-with-balloons movie, but I partly felt like they were trying to manipulate me into feeling sad when I just wanted to have a good time. Toy Story 3 delighted and thrilled me before making me cry with a perfect little scene that just seemed to capture all the emotions involved in growing up and life moving on without seeming to need to try to.

The core cast from the first two movies is back, whittled down to all the truly essential characters, and they really are a great bunch. Obviously Tom Hanks and Tim Allen take center stage as Woody and Buzz, but the whole group is just fun to throw together and do things with. There's also a veritable ton of new characters added, both the villainous overlords at the daycare center and the friendly bunch at another kid's house that Woody meets. Most don't quite have the time to develop full personalities like the old characters, but they're all interesting enough, with some great new voices by guys like Timothy Dalton and Michael Keaton, and Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear is probably the best real antagonist Pixar has had.

The movie also looks outstanding, not exactly because of the technical excellence of the computer effects (although that's definitely noticeable in places, like Lots-O's fur), but just because of the artistry and style of the animation. Woody's floppy run and all the little character touches look a lot more entertaining than I think the animators really knew how to do with computers only a few years ago. Moments like Mr. Potato Head with the tortilla are among what's simply the best stuff people have ever done with the medium in terms of creativity and movement that's amusing to look at. And of course Pixar maintains their ability to create action sequences that are more inventive and thrilling than what most violent blockbusters are able to pull off.

No comments: