Toy Story 3 (2010) ☆☆☆ (3/4) : A dreaded moment has finally come for them

 “Toy Story 3” has nostalgic quality to me. Come to think of it, I virtually grew up with these two wonderful animations. When I was about to become a teenager, “Toy Story”(1995) was released and I was fascinated by the new kind of animation as a young moviegoer(Ah, I love those days when I could watch the movie as many times as I wanted). When I was about to go to the university, “Toy Story 2” (1999) arrived in a local theater in my town and I was delighted to meet these loveable characters I came to like.

 As a boy, I enjoyed Toy Story series as a fun animation, and I still like it as not only witty animations but also simple but good dramas about toys who are afraid of the instability of their status. While the first movie talked about acceptance and friendship from the story of the rivalry between Cowboy Woody and Astronaut Buz, the story of the second movie went further and the toys became more serious about their future. They were well aware of that they would be abandoned in someday, but, in the end, they chose a limited happiness and love instead of the ennui of immortality.

 In “Toy Story 3”, the day they have surreptitiously been scared of has finally come upon them. As shown in the opening sequence, their sweet time has quickly passed away. Now the toys have been stacked together in the chest instead of being scattered around the room. We notice the absence of some toys from previous movies. Their master, Andy, is not a child anymore. Now, because he is about to go to the university, his toys will spend a long or infinite time without him – if they manage to escape the dreadful fate of being discarded to a garbage truck.

 Through series of mistakes and misunderstandings, Woody(Tom Hanks) and Buz(Tim Allen) and other toys come to Sunnyside daycare center. They are greeted by the resident toys led by a teddy bear named Lotso, who likes to hug other toys in a fishy undertone in contrast his fluffy appearance and the mellifluous voice of Ned Beatty. While Woody still wants to be with Andy, other toys decide to stay in this place and they begin to like this place where they can be with children every day. However, they soon realize the daycare center is not the haven it seemed to them at first. So, their new adventure beyond the infinity begins again in rather fearful fashion.

 Frankly, and basically, the movie is a horror movie. From the Day 1 in the daycare center, the toys in the movie goes through several perilous situations and it is possible that we will may bid early farewells to some of them considering the intensity of situations they are forced to endure. What happens to them in the first close encounter with these ruthless toddlers is supposed to be comedy, and it works well, but sometimes it’s horrific. It’s funny and energetic, but it will probably induce wince not only from these poor toys. And when the denizens of Sunnyside reveal their teeth, the situation for them becomes as sinister as “Coraline”.

 The movie is the darkest story in the series. The situation is dour for Andy’s toys. Even if they succeed in getting out of their imminent dangers, the future is still not bright for them. Unlike previous movies, Andy’s room is not waiting for them at the end of their journey this time, and most of them will probably be just remained as the mementoes being forgotten day by day in the attic. In case of Woody, his situation is a little better, that does not make much difference. Although they willingly made a choice in previous movie because they wanted to be loved even just for one day, they desperately want to avoid its consequence. Eventually, through this dark adventure mixed with the confrontation with their mortality, they come to learn something not different from the one we learn in our life.

 Maybe my description so far sounds daunting to you, but the movie is fun as the model Pixar animation. The screenplay by Michael Arndt(“Little Miss Sunshine”) ,based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich. has some touches of recycling from the formulas in previous movies, but the story has been always in the first place in every Pixar animation. The drama is solid as usual. The villain of the story is presented with an understandable past. There are many witty moments sprinkled throughout the movie, especially when the story follows the footsteps of the prison movies like “The Great Escape”. I’m not sure whether a Mexican gag on Buz is effective or not, but I am happy to report that the audience with me had a big laugh with that gag. On sidenote, I’m curious about how it is presented in Korean-dubbing version, but I do not like to spend money again on watching 3D.

 In case of 3D, well, like any other moviegoers, I’ve been tired of it for a long time. The funny thing about 3D is that it’s noticeable when it’s bad, and it’s unnoticeable when it’s good. 3D effect in “Toy Story 3” is nice, but it does not seem particularly necessary at all and I was again confirmed again of its problem with brightness and other things when I took off my glasses for a while(I recommend you to take off the glasses during home video sequence). At least, “Day and Night”, a short animation before feature presentation effectively uses the 3D effect. It shows that good 3D goes inside the screen, not outside.

 I laughed frequently during watching the movie, and I was joyful to see the guest appearance of Totoro), but I have to confess that I have some reservation about the movie. I like it, but I don’t love it as much as many enthusiastic reviewers. The story tells about the fate we knew it would come to the characters, and we get exactly as much as we have expected as a result. Despite its solidity, the story sometimes is shaken during its frantic actions. Overall, it leaves me the impression of an extended epilogue.

 However, as we saw from “A Bug’s Life” or “Cars”, the average Pixar animation is still better than at least 80% of the animations coming out every year. With great animations like “Ratatouille”, “Wall-E”, and “Up”, the standard for Pixar has gone higher and higher, and “Toy Story 3” just looks like one step down compared with them. It’s not their best film, but people at Pixar know well about how to pull our heartstrings and the finale has undeniable poignancy especially in a brief wordless, bittersweet moment. Goodbye, dear toys, I don’t know whether we’ll meet again, but I had a good time with you.

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4 Responses to Toy Story 3 (2010) ☆☆☆ (3/4) : A dreaded moment has finally come for them

  1. litdreamer says:

    I purposely waited until this movie wasn’t showing in 3D before I watched it. I agree that it isn’t Pixar’s best film, but I also can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it immensely, minus the young kid behind me who felt the need to share his thoughts with the entire theater. Next time, I’m sitting in front of the little tyke to block his view of the screen (just kidding–he actually wasn’t as bad as some adults I’ve encountered at the movies).

    I am also tired of every animated movie being in 3D. Enough, already! If the film is good with 3D, it’s probably better without 3D. I don’t think any of the previous Pixar movies suffered from “only being” in 2D, nor do I think that 3D really adds anything to the screen. Once in a while is a treat. All the time, and it looks like a marketing gimmick, a way to make extra money on each movie ticket sold, instead of something that truly enhances the movie-watching experience.

  2. As one of the seemingly few film-goers who is NOT tired of 3D (just the opposite actually), I had to ask this question regarding the effective use of “inside depth” demonstrated in Day and Night. If more 3D films were presented that way, would it help with renewing your interest in the format?

    From my observations, most people that claim to dislike 3D have been duped on at least one occasion for paying extra money to watch a rushed 3D conversion project that no motivations other than to cash in on a new fad. Day and Night should have been enough evidence to prove that there is still much more untapped potential with the format if there is enough care and attention devoted to the process.

    It’s true that effective 3D is unnoticeable, but that’s a good thing. It means you’re fully immersed in the movie world. It’s only after the glasses come off that one realizes what is missing. It’s kind of like playing a videogame. You might ooh and ahh at the pretty graphics for the first few minutes. But once you start zoning in on the action, the visuals become taken for granted and only the subconscious appreciates them.

    Regarding the brightness problem, I’m optimistic that it will improve as technology becomes more advanced. It’s far from being unfixable.

    Good review overall. I can relate to growing up loving the characters and watching their lives progress just as ours do. Pixar was smart to cater this movie to our demographic instead of re-inventing the franchise for a new one.

    • kaist455 says:

      Probably. I liked 3D in Robert Zemeckis’s recent animations or James Cameron’s “Avatar” because it was used effectively. And I have expectation about Werner Herzog’s new movie. Herzog does not like 3D, but he uses it for the effect he wants. If the technique follows the purpose while supported by techincal advance, I will may regain interest as you said.

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