Toy Story 3
My favorite aliens do a lot of the heavy lifting in this film.

Theatrical Release Date: 06/18/2010
Director: Lee Unkrich
Featuring the voices of: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris
Rated: G
Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Golden Mug2010 Golden Mug

Best Animated Film


It’s a myth Triceratops are vegetarians!

As always, I’ll give a brief rundown of the animated short film attached to Pixar’s latest feature and this time around audiences will be treated to “Day & Night”. A rather intellectual affair, it anthropomorphizes Day and Night (hence the title), allowing the two sides to see what each other enjoys during their part of the time cycle.

There are some rather inventive moments, most notably as Day wakes up and starts his … well … day (I need more words for this). However, where the short goes a bit astray is in attaching this to the feature. They simply don’t match. The short even manages to sneak in a radio broadcast (what’s more fun in visual storytelling than radio? {insert smirk here}) denouncing intolerance and is meant to show that we can all get along and that everyone’s varied experiences add up to the sum of our collective consciousness.

While something I wouldn’t be surprised to see as an Oscar nominee for animated short, it’s a bit too highbrow for its placement and although I appreciate the studio taking a different approach, when it comes to the expected and welcome short film attached to their feature projects, I simply want a fun and original tale.

Moving onto the feature itself, one thing I can so far say about Pixar is that they do not simply push out sequels because it’s going to make shareholders a boatload of slowly strengthening American dollars. That’s easier to say because of how rarely they go to the well for story ideas (though with “Cars 2″ and “Monsters Inc. 2″ in the pipeline, this statement may not hold for long).

“Toy Story 2″ was a welcome expansion of the world that the studio’s first animated feature created and, for the most part, so is the latest addition to the franchise, aptly titled “Toy Story 3″. As it’s expected audiences would have seen the first two (and if you haven’t, why not?), I can keep the synopsis simple.

Andy is headed to college and in the rush to finish packing and clearing out his room, our beloved central cast (Woody, Buzz, et al) are shipped off to Sunnyside Day Care. What could be a golden opportunity for the gang to be played with by children Monday through Friday turns into a nightmare of sorts, as other toys at the center have established a hierarchy wherein new toys take the abuse from the younger kids and only those who have put in their dues are given the opportunity to enjoy the more measured play style of slightly older children.

As the story unfolds, we are introduced to a gaggle of new characters. Most important to the story are Lotso (Ned Beatty), a huggable bear who smells of strawberries and runs things at Sunnyside like James Gandolfini would a military prison (missed voice casting opportunity there, though Beatty does a good job), and Ken (Michael Keaton), the classic arranged marriage candy for Barbie. There are also some very fun, albeit more minor characters, like Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), a classically trained hedgehog/actor and Trixie (Kristen Schaal), a triceratops with a passion for gaming and online social networking. Of course, there are a host of others and the best parts of the film are seeing how they interact with our familiar cast.

Sadly, not all is sunshine and roses with this third and supposedly final installment in the franchise. Some of the moments may be a bit too dark/scary for very young ones (though with the state of kids’ animated themes these days, I’m probably being a bit too protective). Also, when the story gets a bit maudlin, the pacing begins to flag and the 104 minute runtime felt longer than it was (though each successive Toy Story has been only about 10 minutes longer than its predecessor). Perhaps most disappointing though is that this particular cast of characters just seems to have worn out its welcome. If I were picking favorites in the franchise, this third entry would sit squarely in bronze medal position (though I’m still going to add it to my DVD collection eventually).

One important note to make is that I STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you DO NOT see this in 3D. Pixar clearly concentrates on good storytelling first (how it should be) and so far haven’t made the latest moneymaking cinematic gimmick their primary concern. More to the point on why you should save those extra few dollars is the fact that there aren’t any real examples of noticeable or welcome 3D moments. There isn’t a ton of immersive depth added via the process and of course, those shaded glasses only dull the bright and beautiful color palette on display. And if you’re thinking I’m being too much of a fuddy duddy on this, keep in mind that even if you enjoyed “Up” in 3D, I’d say that particular film used the extra dimension ten times better than what’s on display here (I enjoyed the 2D version of that feature much more as well).

And although he was a co-director on “Toy Story 2″, “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo”, director Lee Unkrich just isn’t able to capture the same magic that the last few Pixar films have brought to the silver screen and it is with some sadness that I give “Toy Story 3″ a 3.5 out of 5. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so apologetic when recommending a movie and it’s only because of the studio’s track record that I feel this way. It’s probably the best animated film of the year so far and well worth watching (in 2D) … it just that it will probably land itself in the middle of the company’s canon – which is still a great place to be.

3.5 out of 53D No