Monday, June 21, 2010

Toy Story 3 (2010) – Review

Toy Story 3 is a good film, full of very funny moments, sweet and sincere, but also has action and more adult overtones that make it enjoyable for all viewers – a kids’ film also made for adults. And yet, as good of a film as it is, there is still something slightly amiss. The film is a bit heavy handed with its emotional sequences leading to a disconnect for the audience – at times it is too strong or forced leading to viewers feeling that their emotional connection to the characters and film is fabricated and not genuine, which then effects the pacing of the film, it drags when the emotionally exposition is overly blatant. This narrative issue could be due to the film’s inherent structure relative to its core audience, being kids, thus making elements of the film repetitive and obvious so that younger, less experienced viewers can equally participate in more of the full experience of the film – in a sense, the film is handicapped by its target market. However, this is not fully correct, as the past two Pixar films (WALL-E and Up) were able to both succeed fully with all audience members – though bringing different things to different viewers (but that is true for any film). Therefore, Toy Story 3 is guilty of dramatically trying to be all things to all people – something that never succeeds completely when attempted, and thus often misses the mark in some area. While this narrative misstep is apparent, it by no means ruins or even profoundly damages the film overall. There is an abundance to like. The animation is superb. The humor is great and there are jokes for all audience members to appreciate on different levels. The new characters bring a lot to the mix, and are fine additions to the core (much like with Toy Story 2, though Lotso did remind me a bit of Stinky Pete the Prospector in his narrative use, and not as fresh of a villain). The action sequences are exciting and surprising in their mini-structures (they seem to constantly be building upon themselves). And most importantly, the film is able to connect the audience with the characters (aside from the minor hiccup). Even though they are animated toys, the viewers still see parallels between the characters and themselves that allows for a bond to form and for the audience to have a stake in the outcome, which makes the film immensely enjoyable as it plays out. Director Lee Unkrich has done a fine job with screenwriter Michael Arndt and the Pixar writing team in putting together a fluid meaningful story. He succeeds the most in giving each of the characters moments in the story, while maintaining the whole tread throughout, no easy task (I feel like the emotional weight of the film would be more striking for the genre if not for Pixar’s last two films). The prologue scene really set the mood and what was at stake for the characters, it was a great contrast to what happens next – and such juxtaposition effectively plants the emotions of the characters visually into the audience. Randy Newman provides a good score to the piece, laced with nostalgic references to the first two films (though, personally I would have been happy to see someone else tackle the film, paying homage but coming up with a new score to fit the drastic change in the lives of the characters). The film is full of wonderful voice work throughout. There are no weak performances, and the newcomers are great and hold their own. The standouts were Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, Javier Fernandez Pena (aka Spanish Language Buzz), Timothy Dalton, and Kristen Schaal. Toy Story 3 hits all the right notes and is a fine addition to the series and another fantastic Pixar film. 8/10

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