Monday, 26 July 2010
Third toy time is yet another charm
And so Pixar strikes again with TOY STORY 3, which against all the odds of sequel making turns out to be just as good as the previous two Toy Story films.
And you can’t get much better praise than that.
To be honest it should have come as no surprise. I mean they do have form, a LOT of form. But creating a third film in such a successful and high quality series is often a difficult task with the final result usually proving to be something quite a bit lesser than what came before. But not here. Why so? Simple really. Three things: story, story and story. Pixar invest so much time and effort in story and character. It is the beginning and end of everything they do. This (amongst other things) is what raises them to a level well beyond their animated competitors with the script for TOY STORY 3 being a perfect example. It is a precision machine of perfect storytelling yet it remains wonderfully warm with genuine emotional depth and layers of subtext. This new adventure for Woody, Buzz and the gang is based around the structure of a prison escape film, though with darker, deeper, more duplicitous undertones than, say, the great CHICKEN RUN from Aardman. Pixar know that we have to genuinely connect with and care about characters in order to fully invest in a story. And, boy, do we ever. Wait until you get to the big scary finale as together, hand in hand, the gang face certain doom. Lump in throat time. The main thrust of TOY STORY 3 is about moving on, learning to let go and finding new purpose in life. It is also about loss and how we deal with loss, a theme that has run through all three films. Pixar aren't afraid to confront these big important themes in their films. And bless them for doing so. For it's that extra emotional oomph that can, when done well and with genuine feeling, reduce a grown man to tears. Remember Jessie telling her heartbreaking tale of abandonment in TOY STORY 2? Remember Anton Ego's flashback to childhood in the glorious RATATOUILLE? Remember the utterly devastating first ten minutes of UP? I rest my case. TOY STORY 3 also contains allusions to faith including imagery of heaven and hell with things getting pretty dark and intense in places. But just as with the previous two, it is the theme of family and friendship and what that really means that underlies everything. However, never fear, for along with all of that serious stuff, TOY STORY 3 is also one heck of a laugh out loud funny film with Buzz Lightyear switched in to Spanish mode a particular highlight. This is pure comedy gold that allows the smitten space ranger to go all romantic Latin hero with Cowgirl Jessie. Brilliant! The film looks utterly gorgeous too, with Pixar going and raising the bar even higher for CG animation. Also, the 3D presentation works beautifully giving so much depth of field and sharpness to the image with no discernable motion blur. It is by far the best use of 3D since AVATAR. And then there is the cast. As always with these films the voice cast are perfection led by the now iconic work of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz. There is also memorable work from new arrivals Michael Keaton as a conflicted Ken doll who finally finds his Barbie, Ned Beatty as the villainous, emotionally scarred bear Lots-o-huggin and Timothy Dalton as the classically trained hedgehog Mr Pricklepants.
I’m pretty confident that this will be the last of the Toy Story movies as it really does feel like an apt and fitting finale to the story of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, Slinky et al. And if it is to be their very last outing then they’ve sure gone out in style leaving the audience with big smiles on their faces and a few tears in their eyes, just as it should be. Simply put TOY STORY 3 is a total and utter joy to watch from its very first frame to its final heartfelt denouement.
So thank you Pixar, you’ve gone and done it again.
Like there was ever any real doubt. (5+/5)