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Toy Story 3 (a spoiler free review)

Ironically, the original Toy Story marks the beginning of my adult life. It came out the summer that I graduated college. I had moved to a new city and was struggling to adjust to a great many things. I have vivid memories of sitting in a theater with my friends on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by screaming kids and harried parents. But when the lights went down and the movie splashed across the screen, it didn’t matter how old any of us were—the theater was quiet as we were all turned into kids. It was magical.

I think that growing up we all suspected our toys came to life when we weren’t around. But this movie confirmed it. It not only used the new medium of computer animation with such stunning precision, but it told a joyful and hilarious story that captured the imaginations of multiple generations. In that moment, we became spoiled as moviegoers because we saw how movies could be elevated to a new level.

A few years later, the unthinkable happened. Toy Story 2 became one of the rare sequels that surpassed the original. It had all of the humor of the first, but it had a deep soul. And it was the first time that a Pixar movie made me cry. (It wouldn’t be the last.) Anyone who isn’t moved by the Sarah McLaughlan song in Toy Story 2 has a heart of coal.

It’s been 11 years since the last Toy Story movie. In that time I’ve not only become an adult, but I’ve also become a father. Like countless others, I’ve happily introduced my kids to Buzz, Woody and the rest of Andy’s toys. They took to it as easily as I did 15 years ago. Which makes me so happy that we all have a new Toy Story movie to share together.

Normally a movie with a 3 at the end of it is cause for concern, but not when it comes from Pixar. Prior to Toy Story 3, Pixar has created 10 sublime movies in a row. The studio has not only managed to maintain a stunning record of hits, but each one is crafted with care and love that has a ribbon of sophistication running through them. They have always been more than just movies for kids, Pixar movies are for everyone. So I was confident that they weren’t making Toy Story 3 just because the first two were successful. They were making it because it was a story that needed to be told.

Toy Story 3 is another magical experience. It has every ounce of imagination and wit from the first two movies, but this one has an even deeper soul. Even though it’s about a child's playthings, Toy Story 3 is a movie that will hit grownups right in the heart. That’s not to say that kids won’t love it. The action is spectacular and there are laugh out loud moments. But this movie has something special to say to all of us who no longer play with toys.

In the 11 years since we’ve last seen Woody and Buzz, and in that time Andy, their owner, has grown up. He’s 17 now and getting ready for college. Seeing teenage Andy is rather shocking, as elegantly conveyed by his mom in a poignant scene where she sadly peers into his nearly empty bedroom. Even though the posters in Andy's room are now of rock bands instead of cowboys and space rangers, Andy still has a soft spot for his old toys, whom he's kept with him after all of these years. The toys are now confined to an old chest in the corner of Andy’s room. As Woody watches Andy pack up his stuff and decide what he’s taking with him to college, what will go in the attic and what will get thrown away, he and the rest of the toys face an existential crisis—what does it mean to be Andy’s toys if Andy isn’t going to play with them anymore?

This leads the toys on an adventure to find a new purpose. They wind up in a number of places, most specifically a day care center that could be the answer to their problems. Along the way, they meet a host of new (and old) toys, including a bright pink, sweet as molasses bear who smells of strawberry called Lotso and the iconic but vapid Ken, of Ken and Barbie fame. I will stop here because to say anything more runs the risk of ruining the experience.

Parents with younger or sensitive kids should be aware. The movie is more epic, louder and at times darker and a touch scarier than the previous two. This is not to say that it isn’t appropriate for kids—it’s Toy Story after all. But there are noisy explosions and intense action scenes that may frighten and some weighty emotional scenes that may need explanation.

Let’s talk 3D for a second. Although Disney is using Toy Story 3 in an effort to cash in on the 3D craze, it’s not a movie that demands to be seen with a third dimension. While the effect gives the images on screen some depth, there isn’t anything particularly interesting about the use of 3D that adds to the experience of the movie. Toy Story 3 has enough depth on it’s own that you should save yourself the $3-5 a ticket and skip the glasses.

You will love Toy Story 3. Your kids will love Toy Story 3. And if the movie doesn’t bring a tear to your eyes, even just a little bit, than you must be a robot.

Views: 51

Tags: movies, pixar, toy-story-3

Comment by zenmom on June 19, 2010 at 9:54am
I'm looking forward to this one so much. As you say, you just can't go wrong with Pixar. And we all have a soft spot for Buzz and Woody and the gang here. :) This is a really nicely done review. Makes me want to go right now. ;)
Comment by Floor Pie on June 19, 2010 at 10:01am
We're going to see it today with The Boy's kindergarten class. Wish me luck...
Comment by Mommy Monster on June 19, 2010 at 3:29pm
I have been waiting and waiting for this one. Thanks for the great review!!
Comment by Floor Pie on June 19, 2010 at 4:10pm
And we're back. Loved it! But I'm really glad I read your review before we went, because I decided at the last minute to have Little Girl sit this one out. She's 3, very sensitive, and has never seen a movie in a theater before (except for HERSHEY's Really Big 3-D Show™, which freaked her out a little). I'd have spent the last half of the movie in the lobby with her, for sure.

The Boy and his class loved it so much, they were uncharacteristically still and quiet for the whole show. I was amused at how, even though the scariest part obviously scared the pants off them, the minute the lights went up they were all agreeing how awesome that part was.

I agree with you about the 3-D part, too. We saw the non-3-D version, but the kids are convinced that they did see it in 3-D.
Comment by Daddy Geek Boy on June 19, 2010 at 4:40pm
Floor glad you loved it too. I for a moment thought I'd take my daughter (2 1/2) but no way. She'll catch it when she's older.
Comment by StitchyWench on June 19, 2010 at 5:22pm
I want to see it so bad, but the kids have no interest. Freaks!
Comment by Kiwi on June 19, 2010 at 7:35pm
We're going to wait a couple weeks before we go see it but I'm very excited about taking the kids folks.
Comment by ks on June 20, 2010 at 9:06am
We'll be seeing it next week when the niece and nephew come to stay with us for a while. My boys have already got it planned out--they'll take A and J to see that and The Last Airbender (which I keep wanting to call Avatar, because my two are hooked on the cartoons and we haven't see the James Cameron one yet). And then when the kids leave on the 11th, my two want to see Despicable Me. And all of it should be in 3D, nevermind that it seems mostly to be a gimmick to me and rarely adds value to the movie. And also, the effect gives me a headache.
Comment by Daddy Geek Boy on June 20, 2010 at 10:05am
I will say that 3D added value to Avatar (Cameron's) and How to Train Your Dragon. Last Airbender was not shot in 3D and they've done it after the fact, like they did with Clash of the Titans. So it remains to be seen if it's going to work for that flick or just a way to get us to spend more.

I think Despicable Me might have some fun with the 3D. I'll let you know, as there's going to be some Despicable Me content coming on this here blog soon.
Comment by kanachick on June 20, 2010 at 3:07pm
It's wonderful. Really, really wonderful. If you've sat through the first two a bajillion times like we have then it's really worth it to see in in the theatre - it's a lovely ending to the story...oh no...I'm starting to tear up a bit again.


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