In terms box-office gross, “Toy Story 3” has already become the most successful Pixar film ever, passing out 2003’s “Finding Nemo”. This third entry brings to a close a franchise that caught on with children as well as adults in the mid to late 90s and keeps that very close at hand: Those children have grown up and will be the ones who understand the ‘grown-ups’ humour this time round. Fittingly then, the plot takes place as the Toys’ owner Andy is leaving home for college in a week and must decide whether or not he wants to throw out the things he hasn’t played with in years. As with every other Pixar movie to date, the underlying themes are decidedly adult – here it’s growing up and moving on. However not at any point does it get quite as nostalgic as last years fantastic “Up”.
Convince they’re set for the garbage the Toys desperately debate their preferred course of action. By a series of terrible coincidences Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang end up being donated to Sunnyside day-care centre rather than ending up in the attic. At first all of them, with the exception of Woody think it’s not so bad after all. The day-care led on toy-level by purple, plush, strawberry scented bear Lotso-O’-Huggin’ Bear “You may call be Lotso!” (voiced by Ned Beatty) seems like a quiet retirement home for them, a place where toys are peacefully played with by loving children. What they don’t realise is that Lotso in fact runs the place Mafia-style, complete with gambling, torture and punishment with toys first having to attain said retirement status, a task made near impossible by the unloving toddlers of the centre. Cue quest to break out!
This is by far the funniest “Toy Story” – for the adults anyway. Much of it is downright hilarious, all the characters providing laugh-out-loud moments: “This is the perfect time to be hysterical!” cries Hamm the Piggy-Bank and indeed it is: the characters, new as well as returning are an absolute delight, from the bitter Lotso to Barbie’s new-found friend Ken (Michael Keaton) who is desperately trying to shake off his reputation of being a “girl’s toy” and the ‘in-character’ Mr Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton). And while it may be a swipe in the direction of Dreamworks and Puss in Boots, Spanish Buzz will manage to squeeze every last drop of laughter out of you. In fact there is so much fun to be had here that all the heart-breaking emotional moments of owner-less toys who want only to be loved might bring you roughly back to earth. When they do appear, they are not overdone with cheese but are simple yet highly poignant. Pixar have always between masters at this stuff and it certainly matures further here. Those who grew up with the earlier movies may well shed a tear towards the end. A particular moment of holding hands while facing into almost certain death at a landfill site is the climax of this and makes one wonder just how terrified a five year-old would be at this point.
The one thing I cannot comment on is whether the 3D employed is any good. The version I saw was good old 2D which was just fine. Reliable sources tell me the technology was subtly employed here and not in any way spectacular. I’ll take their word for it. Not that it matters: The “Toy Story” movies have always been about so much more than just visual trickery despite being the first and probably best computer animated series ever. So as of now, this looks to be Woody and Co’s final adventure and it’s been ended perfectly.
Although he’s been replaced as Pixar regular by the hugely talented Michael Giacchino, Randy Newman has returned to score (and sing) this final chapter. Simply put, he doesn’t reinvent the wheel on this outing, listeners and fans of the first two will be on familiar ground with the mix of jazzy song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and the more muscular western Americana style that characterises Woody. There is also some stylish guitaring to portray Lotso and Spanish Buzz (and don’t forget the Spanish end-credits rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”!). In keeping with Disney’s (frankly quite stupid) no-CD policy, the soundtrack was released as a digital download only. But unless you’re sick of predictability this score is worth a listen.
We won’t be seeing any more of these characters but “Toy Story 3” brings the franchise to a very satisfying conclusion. It’s great comedy viewing with an adult twist but avoids silly pop-culture references that are now as tired as “Shrek the Third”. A triumphant effort!
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