Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
There are films that tickle the child, and there are films that can entertain the adult – and their inner child. Films that can do both are rare, and immensely desirable from a cultural and business standpoint.
Pixar, the little animation studio that could, and isn’t so little now, have in the 15 years since Toy Story was first released, shown a knack for movies with superior storytelling and character development.
Films such as Monsters, Inc.,Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up – this year’s Best Animated Feature – have all received Oscar attention and critics’ praise, besides box-office success. (Their DVDs are must-haves in family collections.)
With Toy Story 3, long belated – owing to complications in the Disney-Pixar relationship – after 1999’s Toy Story 2, Pixar has set the bar just a little bit higher, creating a wonderful, rich picture – perhaps the best film of the series and arguably one of its best-ever offerings.
It is poignant without being maudlin, funny without pandering, and thrilling without the need for clumsy 3-D effects that cheapen the experience. In short, it was a deeply life-affirming, entertaining and simply delightful movie.
The plot centres around the fate of Andy’s toys, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), and the remnants of the gang. As Andy has grown up – he’s now 17, on the verge of college – a number of his toys have also been given away.
The lack of being played with, the first source of insecurity for a toy, and the fear of being thrown away and neglected, the second source of insecurity, plagues this group. Though Woody tries to keep spirits up, he knows the day will come when they are eventually abandoned – be it in the attic or in the trash heap.
The adventures of this series have repeatedly involved toys being lost – a fear most children can relate to – and trying to find their way home safely. Toy Story 3 repeats the theme, with the gang somehow ending up at a daycare centre.
Without giving away too much detail, the film proceeds with a tale of class systems and unwanted, abused toys that unwittingly reside in a fascist regime, culminating in a breathless adventure that has you wondering: “Just how are they gonna get out of this?!”
Having seen this film twice, I can safely say that there will be tears at the end of the film, well-earned, bittersweet tears that are fitting for any fond farewell.
It should be obvious to many that while the film is ostensibly a look into the inner lives of toys, superbly imagined and conveyed, it also speaks eloquently of universal themes regarding the cycle of life.
Precious time with loved ones can seem ephemeral in hindsight, and goodbyes, one learns, are an inevitable feature of sensient existence.
The scene where Andy and his mother surveys his nearly bare room, as he is about to leave for college, is truly captivating and touching; it matters not that this is an animated film – real actors could barely have done the moment greater service.
Much attention in the marketing of this film has centred around new characters, new toys who will play a part in the ultimate fate of Andy’s toys. While they are fun additions, the script never lets them waylay the storytelling.
Slotted in the many layers of the plot, expectedly, are knowing gags that reference past films and Pixar’s history, as well as crowd-pleasing moments of comic genius. It all makes for a fulfilling movie-going experience, the 3-D perspective serving to enhance the visual experience with no noticeable strain on the eyes.
Before long, all other toy films, in comparison to the now-complete Toy Story series – which one expects to stand the test of time – will seem no better than mere ‘accessories’ in this genre.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!"
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