Ten Word or Less Review: A mild case of sequelitis.
Pixar’s decision to return to its flagship Toy Story franchise for a third outing is a mixed blessing. On one hand “Toy Story 3” is a well made comedic romp with all of Pixar’s trademark touches of class and warmth. Buzz and Woody are icons of animation at this point and it’s nice to have another adventure with this lovingly mismatched duo. On
the other hand “Toy Story 3” chugs along with a vibe of familiarity that’s just too familiar. This adventure, as well made as it is, rehashes too many points and story beats from previous “Toy Story” outings, only finding its own reasons for existing towards the end.
A lot of years have passed since “Toy Story 2” and instead of freezing the characters in time, an effortless thing to achieve with CGI based stories, “TS3” creator’s have choosen to acknowledge this passing of the years. Buzz and Woody’s owner Andy is now 18 and about to leave for college. He’s cleaning out his room and a decision has to be made about his childhood playthings. Andy throws Woody in his college bound box of stuff while Buzz and the gang are attic bound. A series of mistakes and misadventures instead leads Buzz and company to Sunnyside, a daycare center presented as a retirement home for toys to be played with endlessly, day after day by loving children. Buzz and the crew leap at the opportunity to be a childs plaything for years on end, but the daycare toys leader, a cuddly, strawberry scented teddy bear named Lotso, dupes the group into becoming the toys of choice for destructive toddlers. When Buzz and friends rebel Lotso imprisons them all, permanently part of the toddler toy collection. Woody to the rescue.
The first hour of “Toy Story 3” hums along, coasting on a vibe of nostalgia. This viewer found himself liking everything just fine for a while, but a flavor of indifference developed. As okay as it was I realized I didn’t much care about how this particular Toy Story adventure ended. “Toy Story 3” wasn’t pushing any boundaries or looking to achieve anything that had not already been done before in its previous outings. The similarities between this and previous installments, especially 2 was much too abundant. There’s the old timey toy who misguides our friends and turns out to be villainous. There’s Woody on yet another quest to get back to Andy after an unplanned parting of the two. There’s more gags and confusion about Buzz and his resetable identity. For a studio which has created landmark achievements in the field of animation, routinely showing how groundbreaking CGI films can be, to
see them repeating themselves like this eventually began to feel like a letdown. The film’s expressions of new ideas and events are too fleeting.
Towards the finale “TS3” begins to become its own movie. It strikes a moment of deeply grave circumstance and winds down on a note of surprising maturity. The film’s final message flies in the face of the attitudes which have helped make Pixar what it is today. “TS3” tells its audience that putting toys away, or at least handing them down to other children, is a necessary part of growing up. We can’t take them with us everywhere, forever. That seems like an odd message to come from a bunch of people who clearly never put away their toys. Their vast fortunes and creative alcolades have been driven by a deeply rooted love for the things which sparked their imaginations as a child. To tell us all that we should put those things down and move on with life strikes this viewer as oddly contrary. Kind of like a priest telling you to give up religion.
Pixar has a nearly flawless history and “Toy Story 3” is no great setback. It’ll amuse kids and keep parents happy, but with more sequels on the way to past successes, “Cars 2”, “Monsters Inc. 2”, one is forced to wonder if Pixar’s days of pioneering originality are behind them.