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Toy Story 3 a Good Sequel

Published June 17, 2010 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Pixar
Toy Story 3 Teaser Poster Toy Story 3
Here’s what I needed out of Toy Story 3: just a good Toy Story movie, and make me cry. It didn’t need to be better than Toy Story 2. For 10 ½ years I’ve been living with Toy Story 2 as the perfect movie. That’s my whole adult life. I could handle Pixar shattering my world at this stage in life. Just give me something else to watch with these toys, because I can’t really watch Toy Story 1 anymore. When I know something like Toy Story 2 is out there, it seems like a waste. And make me cry again because crying at Toy Story 2 is a profound experience. I just showed it to some kids a year ago and let them see me cry. You know what I’m talking about.

Review: Toy Story 3


Indeed, Toy Story 3 is a good Toy Story sequel. Definitely not better than 2, but this is the Pixar version of bigger and badder sequel, and of course they even do that brilliantly. Beginning with a western fantasy, they refer to the Buzz Lightyear video game opening of Toy Story 2 and take it beyond. It’s a huge spectacle and incorporates every character and references to the backstory we know into a big overblown epic. It’s kind of genius.

The beginning of the story is the strongest as it ties directly in with Toy Story 2. Each of the toys deals with Andy growing up in a way unique to what kind of toy they are. There’s one last desperate plan to get Andy’s attention, and it’s both the magic of the toys working together, and tragic when you realize what an 18-year-old sees when he looks into an old toy chest.

This is how you revisit Toy Story 10 years later. You incorporate new toys like cell phones and explore the relationship we have with toys as we age. Donating old toys to charity is actually a wonderful thing, but when you’re the toy it must seem like abandonment. Also, when they hear Andy acting like he doesn’t care about kid toys anymore, the toys don’t understand he’s putting up a defensive front but actually they have a lot of sentimental value.

The day care the toys end up in is a seductive toy paradise. This is where I think the film settles into just being good but not great. The issue ends up being the toys get dumped with the rambunctious kids and would rather be with the loving, playful kids. Well, of course they would. Everyone would like to be in the better place. That’s not a profound issue.



I was hoping the issue would be they get seduced by a toy utopia, only to discover it doesn’t have the heart you need for a fulfilling life. That would be the devil, tricking you into selling out your core values. Still, donate in real life. We’re just talking about a movie here.

Instead, Toy Story 3 really just plays out variations of Toy Story 2. Different toys have different reactions to abandonment, but it’s still the same issue. It was promising when the toys were dealing with it, but they end up just stewing in it. It’s probably the least original movie Pixar has ever made, perhaps just by virtue of being a sequel. It works way better than originals like Bug’s Life or Cars, but its creativity is more in messing with the world than expanding it. (For some reason, as soon as I wrote that, I thought of Back to the Future Part II which I love. They totally mess with their previous movie and it’s brilliant, and I guess all they end up doing is resetting it back to normal. Oh my God, the fact that they’ve got me thinking this hard and re-evaluating my opinions on 20-year-old movies means Pixar did something to me tonight.)

It’s still all real. It’s about what kids really do to toys. When you grow up, you give them away. When you’re at day care, you don’t treat communal toys very well. It’s all a metaphor and a literal toy comedy at the same time. That’s why it works as a sequel, if not an original. It’s all references, and with that comes a lot of payoffs. Everything you knew about these toys and their stories pays off with a new gag.

It’s much more out there. It really messes with the characters. I mean, Cool Hand Luke references in a kids’ movie? I don’t know if that’s pretentious or inappropriate but I like it!

The story seems much more contrived, the events that happen to get the characters from place to place. That’s undeniable but they’re masters of suspense constructing sequences of mundane coincidences that put the toys in life threatening situations. Emotionally it delivers the stakes, even if you might intellectually think, “Really? The bags just happened to get mixed up? Well, I guess it’s okay because it makes something awesome happen.” It’s certainly much more predictable because you know where it’s headed.

The action sequences are unrelenting Peter Jackson style set pieces that build and build. How toys move has become like Parkour. This may be the scariest for kids, with a virtual prison, a landfill and an inferno as some of its major locations. That seems more intense than Sid’s yard but I’m the last one who’ll underestimate a kid’s fearless balls to see an intense movie.

I’ve clearly got some legitimate complaints about Toy Story 3 and I seem to be defending each issue with a surprising amount of forgiveness. Maybe it’s one of those amazing conundrums where you love the stuff it does, but you hate how it gets there, and you’re stuck with this push-pull of pleasure and remorse. That’s kinda profound.

At least it has closure with Andy. That final scene is really what it’s all about. I think it made me misty because I really wanted it to. I probably could have resisted. Anyway, I think I can watch Toy Story 3 again. It’s got enough to distract me from thinking about Toy Story 2 for a while. The Day & Night short before it is pretty amazing. In fact, that has the profound metaphysical levels I was looking for in Toy Story so I guess I got my wish in some form.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Pixar
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