Friday, August 6, 2010

Toy Story 3 - ****

A great film doesn't concern itself with what happens, so much as how it happens. You probably know the broad strokes of how Toy Story 3 will play out before you're too far into it, but the way it actually comes together is really a thing of beauty... and Pixar isn't about broad strokes at all. They have always been great at finding a way of telling a unique story using elements of its natural environment, unlike, say, Shark Tale, the story of fish who inhabit an underwater Times Square and have an Italian mafia. They have not yet put this skill to better use than they do in Toy Story 3, in which they actually come up with a story worth telling, and a way worth telling it. You could focus a viewing of this film alone on looking at all of the old toys they've included, or seeing how they've integrated the functions of these toys into the narrative, like using a bookworm as a librarian who keeps the instruction manuals for different toys.

It seems crazy that a handful of animated plastic toys act in ways more human than most of the characters in any film so far this year, but there you have it. Crazier still is that, amid these incredibly genuine moments, the film also delivers consistent laughs and some of the best executed sight gags I've seen in a long time, a few stand-outs being Spanish Buzz, Mr. Tortilla Head, and Ken riding the rickety elevator of Barbie's Dream House. To pull all of this off in a G-rated story about friendship and loss, and the need to have a purpose in life is really pretty phenomenal.

If you have eyes, ears, and a heart, you'll certainly shed a tear or two in the final sequences of the film as you watch two of the most iconic characters in all of cinema walk off into the sunset for the last time... Its bittersweet ending (though far more sweet than bitter) actually conveys a sense of loss that other animated films lack the ambition and imagination to even strive for, and you, and your kids, need to experience it. That isn't to say that this is one of those sequels that banks on your pre-established feelings for its characters, though growing up watching Buzz and Woody does land them a special place in my cinema-going heart. No, Toy Story 3 more than succeeds on its own merits.

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