I watched Toy Story3 last night and, as expected, found a lot to like in the new Pixar film. What’s not to like? Perhaps spending a moment to bemoan the sugar hopped adolescents is out-of-place in a review of the film – you can’t blame Pixar for their tried and true audience any more than you can blame Starbucks for creating an entire generation of sugary-caffeine junkies – well, perhaps you can the latter. Yet sitting there in the comfortable silence of the theater as the lights dim and my eyes adjust to the mammoth screen for the first time, the last thing I want buzzing in and around my head is the giddy foreplay of tweens discussing their memorization skills of every ad flashing painfully on repeat cycle, or indirect references to pop culture sensation Justin Bieber – truly the antichrist of the not-now-but-later generation. So once the twelfth preview for movies I’ll never watch fades and the shifting and squirming subsides, a short preview movie appears to prolong the inevitable curtain call for the movie I’m actually there to see. This is not to say the movie before the movie wasn’t enjoyable, a well crafted animated tale of the love-hate affair between day and night, but I’m there for the main course not the appetizer which, as one might expect, will be served when the server is good and ready – especially when the server is Disney.
It would further be a waste of time to pat Pixar on the back where their obvious talent for story and character stretch leaps and bounds beyond every other studio stumbling in their wake. I mean that is why we pile into the car and wait in the line and buy the large Coke and popcorn sold to us like rice to throngs of starving third world crowds, right? I can’t recall a single Pixar flick that didn’t deliver the goods, however original or inventive beyond the mega-computers used to actually create the films, but there is something comforting in knowing the price of admission comes with a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge from John Lasseter and the team in Emeryville – they nearly guarantee your repeat patronage. It seems almost impossible that Pixar has maintained such a solid return on investment, that with each subsequent film they capture the hearts and minds of their audiences as though plucked from pop-culture and nestled in the most trusted archetypes. Think of Woody as the hapless hero on a journey to save his friends, or Lotso as a threshold guardian poised before the innermost cave. The characters of Pixar succeed because at a rudimentary level these are we people, people we ourselves have been or are, and along the way we recognize our own shortcomings, sacrifices and triumphs. If only other studios could learn from this most intrinsic value we might be spared the likes of Ice Age, Antz, and Open Season to name just a few.
On the subject of easter eggs, inside jokes and tidbits added to the movie for fans of the franchise and geeks everywhere to pour over, ponder, and relish in ‘getting it’, I don’t dally away into the wee hours contemplating. I for one enjoyed the little nods to films and projects passed, an obvious scene recreated in some detail to the famous ‘box’ scene in Cool Hand Luke stands out for me. There are other bits here and there as pointed out by metacritic.com and nola.com, by slahsfilm.com too.
If there is any criticism to be had not already covered, I would suggest that the beginning of Toy Story 3 felt tedious and myopic. We are talking about the third installment of a franchise and as such these characters should be well-known – putting the eleven years between Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 aside. In all actuality, where many films fail in the second act to keep the story moving and interesting, TS3 stumbles over back story and character development through the first act until finally things pick up and the ride through the curtain call is as rewarding as anything we’ve seen from Pixar. Now I’m not suggesting that for lack of attention span I needed a few explosions and blood spatter – you’d be hard pressed to find anything but loveable toy on toy destruction, ala the potato heads constantly falling to pieces without the Patsy Cline song to accompany. I’m only suggesting that things might have moved a little faster into the world of Woody and Buzz, of Jessie and Hamm so that we might spend apt time with old friends who have dropped by to visit and leave us comforted, united in knowing that heros and the helper of heros come from a place we can all relate to in Emeryville, California.
Toy Story 3 delivers in customary Pixar fashion, a character centric story based tale with familiar themes and familiar archetypes. There is so little to criticize that it seems insignificant to mention. This is a must see for fans of the franchise and newbies alike – though it seems improbable that all but new-borns have missed one of Pixar’s eleven films since 1995.