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A Movie a Week #4: Toy Story 3

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What to say about Pixar that hasn’t already been said a million times before?  That they are possibly the best producers of family movies working today?  Well, now that’s just pointing out the obvious.  Over the years, Pixar has not only constantly risen the bar of quality animation and storytelling, highlighting the weaknesses of all ogre shaped competitors, but it has also matured, and with Toy Story 3, maturity is the name of the game.

Ten years have passed since our last play date with Woody, Buzz and the other inhabitants of Andy’s bedroom and in that time, the gang’s beloved owner has grown up and is about to embark on the next chapter of his life, college.  The toys have long since been banished to the toy chest, starved for attention and forced to devise detailed tactics in order to get Andy to take notice of them.  After a failed play time plan they decide to cut their losses and retire to the attic to await the day Andy dusts them off to introduce them to his own kids.  But after a bin bag mix up they find themselves at Sunnyside day-care centre where they meet a group of new toys lead by Lotso, a strawberry scented Lots-o-Huggin’ bear who assures them their days of being cast aside are long gone.   Their dream is soon shattered when they find themselves shaken, thrown and stuck up the noses of toddlers too young to properly play with them, and soon a jail-break plan is hatched to escape back to the safety of Andy’s attic.

With the emotional depths reached in the studio’s previous catalogue of films – the heartbreaking opening montage in 2009’s UP, the robotic love story in 2008’s Wall-E, Pixar has consistently asked more and more of it’s viewers over the years.  It’s almost as if the studio has been emotionally preparing audiences for the bittersweet conclusion to their original tale, because it would be impossible to tell Toy Story 3 in any other way.   Never ones to sucker punch you into feeling something for nothing, director Lee Unkrich handles this coming to terms with reality theme with care, wary not to alienate children or adults in the process, which is no easy task considering the weighty emotional baggage Toy Story 3 carries with it.  But lets not get bogged down with the melancholy aspects, because like all Pixar films this third outing for Woody and Buzz has some classic comedy moments.  Among the new recruits featured in the threequel are Timothy Dalton as the thespian hedgehog Mr Priklepants, girlasaurus Trixie voiced by Flight of the Conchords’ Kristen Schaal and of course Ned Beatty as Lotso, the bear who’s not all he seems.  However, all these characters are overshadowed by Barbie’s dream guy Ken, played by Michael Keaton who proves to be a prefect marriage of voice actor and animation, with every stiff movement of this girls toy in denial guaranteeing laughs whenever he graces the screen.

All in all, Toy Story 3 provides a fitting conclusion to a franchise, which if was released under any other studio would be milking it for all it’s worth, spewing out endless rehashes, but Pixar bow out on a high. With some deeply human moments, and humour that kids and adults will appreciate,  Pixar prove they can make some old toys tell a fresh tale after all these years.

Toy Story 3 is in cinemas now.

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