Toy Story 3 (PG)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris
Director: Lee Unkrich
Running time: 103 minutes
Eventually, we’re all just going to have to admit that some of our best friends have been inanimate. I’ll be the first to come clean; I have no problems with that sort of thing. Then Pixar happily came along in 1995 and gave us a bundle of animated inanimate friends to get us through our days. When Pixar released their trailer for the third installment of pixilated goodness, I just knew it was going to please every fiber of my being. I remember chatting to some friends at the time who were mortified at the prospect of Pixar simply cashing in and trying to squeeze this franchise for all it was worth. I’ve personally never seen Pixar to be that type of company, but who can tell nowadays when every other film released is either some spin-off, sequel, prequel or end of a trilogy.
There were far too many questions I wanted to avoid at the time of the initial trailer release — will it be as good as any of the others? What new characters will we see? What’s the story going to be about? I was happy not to know or speculate anything until I was able to see the film for my very own eyes. Saying you’re in for a treat is simply downplaying; it would be the equivalent of giving a friend who has just graduated a pat on the back, without all the celebration, accolade and acceptance of hard work. I’m not going to lie to you; this film is a masterpiece — and I’m not just saying that because I love the two before it. This is actually the best one.
True to form, Pixar deliver their pre-film animation with a lot of grace and style. They manage to take a very simple idea, add an adult twist (with some minor preachy, but forgettable, sections at the end) and deliver a short masterpiece. The notion of friendship despite your differences is portrayed from the very beginning of your 3D experience. Something that undeniably, as an adult, adds to our enjoyment of their films is the homage to every pop culture reference we know and love. You’ll be taking many trips down memory lane during this film, believe you me.
It begins with your very typical chase — Woody (Tom Hanks) has to rescue a train full of orphans whilst upon his trusty steed, Bullseye. The evil (for this opening sequence anyway) Mr and Mrs Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) are driving the train full speed ahead into a bridge that’s about to be blown up. With all this excitement, we’re then thrown into the good old days; the most loving montage of Andy playing with his toys being filmed on a video camera by his mother. The reminders of all the best parts of your childhood come flooding back and then BAM — the toys are locked into a box, never to be played with again.
It’s the level of detail that the creators go into that make you marvel (no pun intended) at their complexities. Barbie (Jodi Benson) is on her ever-long quest to find a mate… and find one she does. We’re introduced to none-other than the beauteous Ken (Michael Keaton) who walks funny, has a house to die for and a wardrobe collection that nobody but Barbie understands. The way his clothes are used as a distraction later in the film to create one of the best montage scenes ever made in a film is just outstanding work by Pixar. Mr and Mrs Potato Head play a large part in this last film (the tortilla is ingenious — I shall say no more), with Buzz (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) being consigned to much smaller, but very poignant, segments. Finally, character-wise, if you didn’t hate those dolls that resemble babies, you will now.
The entire film plays very subtly on two notions – to throw away? or to recycle? Given the state of the world in the past few years, the writers have done a fantastic job to show us that not everything should be thrown away, especially those things that have sentimental value. Whilst Andy struggles within himself to let his favourite childhood toys go, he comes across the most adorable little thinker – a young girl whose imagination takes her to places we can only dream of. And if her toys don’t have you smiling uncontrollably, it’s safe to say that you have no heart.
This film will have you remembering the last 15 years like it all happened over the past week. It’s such a marvellous ode to itself, and to your childhood memories, that the tears will be flowing freely. Lee Unkrich, Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter should be very happy with themselves; they’ve done all of us Toy Story fans very proud. I left the cinema with a heavy and open heart, thankful to Pixar for completing the toys’ journey and not leaving them in a toy box to rot. If there’s one last piece of advice I can impart, it’s this; take your very best friend (in whole wide world) to see this film — because you’ll be thinking of nothing but each other all the way through it.
Toy Story 3 receives a whopping and very deserving five out of five, from me.