Toy Story 3

Posted on November 1, 2010 at 8:00 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: Some brief schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Characters in frequent peril, tense confrontations, bully, dealing with loss
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: June 18, 2010
Date Released to DVD: November 2, 2010 ASIN: B00275EHJG

You won’t just forget you are watching an animated movie; you will forget you are watching a movie. That is how completely we enter this wonderful world, and how reluctantly we leave it.

“Toy Story 3” has more honest, acutely observed, and engaging characters, a more authentic understanding of the poignant complexities of the human condition, bigger laughs, and better action than most live-action films and is close to being as authentic and involving as real life. You have to remind yourself, a little sadly, that these are not toys you’ve played with and people you know. It is by any standard and in any category a masterpiece.

It was just 15 years ago that Pixar released the first “Toy Story” and changed the course of movies forever. They made it about toys because the limited motion and smooth, shiny surfaces of plastic made it possible to hide the limitations of the technology of the time. And as they have with every film they produced, they made the story and the characters come first. It was the writing — and the voice performances by Tim Allen and Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast — that made the movie come to life. Ten record-breaking, genre-shattering films later, Pixar returns to the story of Buzz and Woody with all of the humor and action and even more heart. The early works were kids’ movies adults could enjoy but as they showed with “Up,” they are now making films for grown-ups that kids will appreciate.

As with “Up,” “Toy Story 3” begins with a brief flashback sequence filled with a breathtaking mastery of telling, evocative detail. Once there was a time when children played with toys powered by imagination rather than batteries. We go back in time to see Andy playing out a fabulously inventive adventure and the buoyant energy of his vision, acting rather than re-enacting, is jubilant with the pure pleasure of making things up. (This must be what it is like to work at Pixar.)

But time has gone by. Andy is packing for college and the only way the toys who love him can get his attention is to hide his cell phone in the toy box. He has to clear out his room. Where will the toys go?

Through a mix-up, they find themselves at a day care center where they are at first warmly welcomed by the toys who live there, led by Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (voice of Ned Beatty). It seems perfect; with new children coming every year they will never be outgrown or neglected. “No owners means no heartbreak.” They have a chance to do what they love — making kids happy.

But things begin to go very badly. They are placed with children who are too young to make up stories for them or care for them. When Buzz Lightyear protests, he is rebooted, restored to his original programming. Once again, Woody must come to the rescue, and once again, they must decide what their purpose is and where their loyalties are.

The first movie came out in 1995, but the toys were intentionally retro, more familiar to the parents in the audience than the children. The little green soldiers, the barrel of monkeys, the Potatoheads, the slinky dog, and the cowboy were old school. Part of the poignancy of the first film was the arrival of the first battery-powered, space-age toy, Buzz Lightyear. And part of the charm of the second film was its theme about what value means — is it better to be in mint condition forever and sold on eBay as a collectible or to be played with and loved, knowing that childhood is brief and the person you are devoted to will leave?

The new characters in this film are perfectly rendered replicas of toybox classics (bet you grown-ups can’t get through the movie without saying to the person next to you, “I had that!”) and originals that fit in so perfectly you can almost remember seeing the ads and humming the jingle. Barbie (voice of “The Little Mermaid’s” Jodi Benson) and Ken (voice of Michael Keaton) show some unsuspected depth (her political views are surprisingly well-founded) and he has some unanticipated growth opportunities. His wardrobe provides some of the movie’s most delicious moments, especially when he reverses the usual movie convention to put on a montage try-on session. I also loved Mr. Pricklepants (voice of Timothy Dalton), a Vincent Crummles-style thespian (a stuffed and stuffy hedgehog) who reminds Woody about the pleasures of play, a theme that gently deepens and expands, so entertainingly you don’t realize how stirring it becomes.

All of this is done with wit and style and action-packed chase scenes, and then it is brilliantly, perfectly resolved, showing us that the time the toys spent with Andy helped to make him who he is. I dare you not to cry. It’s a happy ending that like all great movies makes us think more wisely about our own sense of purpose and connection. And it reminds us, too, of the pleasures of imagination by showing us what it can achieve.

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22 Replies to “Toy Story 3”

  1. I completely agree with you, Nell! I got to see a sneak preview; I’ve been waiting for this movie since it was announced that there would be a TS3! And I was not disappointed. I didn’t feel as though I was watching a movie, I felt like I was a part of it. I’m not a big fan of 3D normally, but this was excellent. I even forgot that I was wearing the 3D glasses! I laughed, I cried, I really identified with Andy and Woody and Buzz. I really loved Ken & Barbie, too! What a hoot when Ken does his fashion show!
    I am a graphic designer by trade, and I sure would love to work at Pixar. What a dream job that would be!!
    Maybe someday…..

  2. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I will Sunday afternoon in 3D! I enjoyed the first 2 movies & I did see the preview about a month ago. I looks like another blockbuster for Pixar.

  3. Nell,
    I too agree with you completely on this one. I even made a point to mention the couple of scary moments that were in this third film that you really didn’t have in the first two. It’s a change that may bother some of the really young kids. Although, I compared it to ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and if parents didn’t have a problem with the scary elements in that, they won’t have a problem with the ones in TS3.
    However, I have to disagree with the comments about 3D being great. I believe that the reason Karen didn’t realize she had the glasses on was because there was virtually no additional 3D elements in this film. People have to remember that Pixar is already 3D animation. There is no point in trying to make it any more 3D than it already is. Therefore, there were really no true 3D moments. In my opinion it is most certainly not worth the extra $3-5 a ticket for this feature for this film. It’s marketing and extra money for the studios, nothing more.
    However, the movie is fantastic!

  4. A great Birthday present! I saw the preview for Toy Story 3 months ago and when I saw it was opening on my birthday, I told my wife and son that I wanted to see it.
    They took me to a 10:00 showing and then off to Fentons (as seen in UP) for lunch and ice cream. It’s nice living in PIXAR country.
    PIXAR once again, is a master story teller and tugs at the heartstrings. I kept thinking about my 11 year old boy who plays with his favorite Woody and Buzz toys much like Andy. I imagine when my boy goes off to college, it will be a similar experience as with Andy and his Mom….Why do they have to grow up!

  5. I really like your review. What makes the Toy Story movies so great is that we relate to the toys and forget that they are synthetic objects and identify with them like we do with humans. Your observations about how the toys shape Andy’s childhood and who he is is spot on.

  6. No problem. Thanks for responding and your quick response. My link has my review of Toy Story 3 on it. DO you want to read it and let me know what you think and or be friends on Facebook and Twitter?

  7. I wish I had read this review BEFORE taking the family to see this movie yesterday! I must remember to check with you next time! Although my husband and I and our older daughter enjoyed the film, my 3 year old had a different experience. The monkey scared her so badly, she started crying and she refused to sit down for the rest of the film. The incinerator only added insult to injury. She had trouble sleeping last night and my husband and I woke up this morning to find her camped out on our floor. This was the first time she has failed to sleep all night in her own bed. She loves the first two Toy Story movies, but this one was way too scary. It should have been rated PG. Parents, let my misstep be a warning to you. You might want to skip this one for now.

  8. I am so sorry to hear about your experience, Courtney! I don’t recommend any theatrical release for kids under age 5 — while some films may be okay with some films, it is just too hard to predict. At that stage, they are still uncertain about what is real and how stories work and the experience is overwhelming for the littlest kids, even if they are comfortable with the movie on DVD, watched in familiar surroundings. Give her some hugs and help her make up a song or story or picture about what scared her in the movie. And thanks so much for sharing your experience, which will be of great help in guiding other parents.

  9. We just got back from watching the movie and loved it. The best movie we have seen so far this year for the family. My youngest was a little upset about the babydoll, not that it was scary but because the babydoll wanted its mommy. My daughter felt bad for it. Both of my daughters, 10 and 7, enjoyed the movie.
    Truly Pixar knows what they are doing.

  10. Thanks letin1 — very glad to hear it! I was concerned that the baby doll was going to creep kids out so I am especially relieved to hear that that was not your daughter’s concern. I’m so glad you enjoyed the film as much as I did and really appreciate your letting me know.

  11. The review was right on. I ‘pre-watched’ this the other night to see if I could watch this with my 4 year old, and the first 2 minutes let me know I couldn’t. I enjoyed the movie once I let go of possibly bringing him. I think G is the new PG.

  12. My three and a half year old son loved this movie. The only thing we had to be careful of was the very very loud previews. Thanks for the review.

  13. I’m sorry to hear about the real little one’s bad experience with Toy Story 3. Yes, those two scenes mentioned are the most scary in the movie and I was concerned for my five year old sitting with me. He had no trouble, but if he was only three, that might be a different situation.
    But it was a fantastic wonderful movie and I really enjoyed reading your review about it. I wrote my own Toy Story 3 review that goes along the same lines as yours, trying hard not to give away any of the plot!
    I also appreciated the earlier remarks made about this already being a 3D film, with no need for the glasses. This is true and having the glasses on didn’t make much of a difference in the film – it was not created for 3D special effects, so don’t feel like you’re missing a lot if you don’t see the 3D version.

  14. I believe this may well be the best second sequel in film history, with the possible exception of Goldfinger, the third official James Bond movie. It was somehow better than Toy Story 2 in every aspect, contatining the happiest, saddest, funniest and scariest moments of the whole series. (I don’t remember being that scared by Sid or his toys when I was six, but I’m nearly 21 now and I’m surprised that monkey didn’t give me nightmares.)
    I do kind of hope though that we don’t see a fourth – this concluded the story perfectly. I’m optimistic about the Cars and Monsters Inc sequels though.
    Nell, what are your thoughts on the fan backlash against the few negative reviews of the movie that kept it (and therefore the whole trilogy) from getting a 100% Tomatometer rating? On the one hand, complaining about a film only getting 99% is a little obsessive. On the other hand, Armond White’s review itself is factually inaccurate on several points, calling into question a) whether he actually saw the movies and b) why he’s still part of the Rotten Tomatoes community, especially with his history of giving good reviews to bad movies and vice versa. Even Roger Ebert considers him a troll!

  15. Agreed, Toby, and what is so astonishing in this case is that unlike Goldfinger or Harry Potter 3 (arguably the best of the series), this one was not organically conceived by the same author at the same time; it was wholly created by a writer new to the characters.
    I agree with you entirely about the fan backlash. It bugs me hugely that the Rotten Tomatoes community in particular is so rigidly conformist. They will come down very hard on anyone who does not agree with the majority and it is clear that 99% of the bashing comes from people who have neither seen the movie nor read the review. I enjoy reading reviews from critics who see films differently, just as I enjoy hearing from commenters who disagree with me. What matters to me is how interesting the ideas are and how well they are expressed. I wouldn’t be bothered if someone liked anchovies on their pizza; why should I be bothered if they like some movie I did not?
    But, like you, I am beginning to question Armond White. While in the past I have found his reviews provocative but well-written, I thought his “Toy Story 3” review was so far off the beam I, too, wondered whether he had seen the movie before he wrote it. That is a more important question than whether the film gets a 100% rating or not.

  16. My little one (he is 17) was heartbroken by this movie, LOL and not because it was the end of the franchise or because he was a true Toy Story fan. He simply did not like seeing the toys be mistreated. Thanks for another great review.

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