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4 Aug 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

Toy Story was one of my favourite films as a child, and I went into this hoping that the trend would continue. The series has always appealed to people of all ages due to its constant fun for children and its in-jokes for the adults. But will the latest instalment be the same?

In Buzz's and Woody's latest adventure, Andy is all grown up and about to go to college. As a result, the gang are (mistakenly) donated to Sunnyside nursery, where they will be played with all day, 5 days a week. As they enter, they see a happy place, where toys are being played with and respected. They are placed in the Caterpillar room, but it doesn't quite go according to plan. After being mistreated and abused, the toys plan an escape. It has more than a feel of The Shawshank Redemption and The Great Escape, and that's a good thing. This story, especially in the latter half of the film, is quite a bit darker than that of previous films in the series, and I was quite shocked! The plot takes you down a path that you won't be able to predict and keeps you guessing constantly. This is what Pixar have been able to do successfully since their first major film, Toy Story, and is part of their appeal. However, Pixar have been able to set an amazing animation upon the world yet again. The quality of the animation is constantly surprising, with notable examples being the ripples on Andy's fingernails and the texture on the inside of a cardboard box.

At its core, the main audience for this film is families and children. Yet Pixar has been able to extend this to a wider audience, something very few animations has been able to do. It will originally appeal to adults who are trying to capture their youth yet again, but keeps them interested by constant in-jokes (a notable example being a parody of the slow-motion Baywatch run). It also appeals to teenagers due to its constant jokes and darker storyline. Because of this, it outshines its previous films for teenagers, but begins to alienate some of its 10-15 year old watchers as it never quite manages to reach a middle line by mixing comedy and action seamlessly, and many of that age group may lose interest in the middle. However, as one-or-the-other, the film reaches its hight on both levels exceptionally well.

Yet Pixar is the latest in a line of companies producing films in 3D. After seeing half the film in 3D (the projector broke), and then again in 2D, I will say what I am going to say for every 3D film I will see: it isn't worth it. In the end, you won't notice that you are watching it in 3D, and films that do make you feel like you are watching 3D tend to over-rely on pop-out effects. Toy Story 3 is firmly in the former camp, and watching it in 2D is pretty much the same as watching it in 3D, the only advantage being that of pure novelty.

As for actors and cast, the film includes all of the usual suspects, including Woody, Jess, Buzz, Rex and Slinky, but some characters have been missed out (including Bo Peep). Yet, in the end, there are enough new characters to make up for this minimised cast, including the clown Chuckles, the posh English hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants, and the creepy doll Big Baby. As for the voice-overs, they are top-notch as always. Tom Hanks provides the voice of Woody, and manages to show urgency, calmness, excitement, love and anguish effortlessly when needed. As for Tim Allen, the same could be said. Both actors have indistinguishable voice-acting skills that took Pixar to get it noticed. However, the show is definitely stolen by Wallace Shaun and Kristen Schaal, who play Rex and Trixie (the new dinosaur character). These two characters stand out from the others in that they provide most of the comedy. And most of the time, it is genuinely hilarious that had me laughing many times. The voices put these comedic moments forward that no other voice would be able to do.

As for the music, yet again Pixar has hit a high note (no pun intended). Most of the music is made up of just 1 or 2 instruments, and is still able to create many emotions. The "You've Got a Friend in Me" song returns from the other 2 films and is still as catchy as ever, and it'll be in your head for days after. However, within the first 5 minutes of the film, it is used very effectively to make the audience swell up with pity. In the latter half of the film, music is also used very effectively to create suspense, sadness and joy.

However, as this is an animation, the cinematography is hard to comment on, especially when comparing it to other films. This is because animators can reach angles that would be somewhat impossible if real actors would be used. However, Pixar shows that they are masters of their art here aswell. The "camera" is often positioned to give the most powerful view. The shots zoom in when the action gets tense, and often zooms out again when the action dies down so that the cast can fit in shot and provide amazing one-liners, or create intense emotions in the audience. Quite frankly, Pixar know what they are doing.

Overall, Toy Story 3 is an exceptional film on par with others from the series. However, the darker storyline will alienate people who started at number 2. The 3D also adds nothing to the film other than novelty. However, besides these small niggling problems, Pixar have been able to sculpt yet another masterpiece. Pretty soon, they will be able to print money, especially if they keep up this standard of films.

Total Score: 9 out of 10

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