“Holy Mole Guacamole!” says Hamm the Piggy Bank in the movie. And that sums up Pixar’s latest (and perhaps greatest?) creative effort.The reviews have been (almost) unanimously spectacular: 180 positive reviews on Rotten Tomato; 3 negative. (Who were those people? Space aliens? Cruella de Vil, Scrooge, and Lucifer?) I concur with the masses. It may only be June, but I’m voting for Toy Story 3 as the best movie of the year!
I hit the movie theatre last Saturday morning. I like to watch kiddie movies with the kiddies. But there were plenty of adult kiddies, too. We all had a great time—some of us oohing and ahhing, laughing, singing, or crying (or like me, all four).
When I first heard TS3 was being made, I thought the story of Woody and his pals would be stale by the third helping. But the story was fresh and compelling with equal doses of comedy and drama—with side dishes of goofy humor and poignant moments, along with extra helpings of suspense and romance.
So much to love!
1. Quality of Animation: Do you even need to mention it? We all know how out-of-this-world Pixar animation is. So realistic you forget it’s animated. Like the trash dump scene at the end. I felt like I was on the trash compactor conveyor belt and could feel the heat!
One of my favorite scenes: Mr. Potato Head is locked in a covered sandbox (as punishment). To help his pals, he throws his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth out a hole in the box. The parts are retrieved and put on a tortilla, so Mr. Potato Head becomes a wobbly and floppy Mr. Tortilla Head. Then a bird comes along and picks at Mr. Tortilla Head until he falls apart! Superb (and funny) animation.
2. Music: Randy Newman’s compositions (once again) worked perfectly to augment and movie’s plot and emotions. “You Have a Friend in Me” was played at the beginning—a terrific way to conjure the nostalgia and good feelings from the previous movies. The song at the end, “We Belong Together,” was superb—not to mention catchy. (You can hear it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw7ZjO-Nf5Q.)
3. Attention to detail: This is where Pixar soars with its little touches that add so much to the overall experience. I think you could find something to rave about in every scene. For instance, when Woody tries to escape from a locked bathroom. He has to climb up a toilet to reach an open window. He first puts a piece of toilet paper on the toilet seat—so as not to dirty it up.
There were also different toys that flashed by on the screen (in the Sunnyside school scenes) that I recalled from childhood and haven’t seen in ages—like the xylophone-on- wheels toy. There was also a train full of Troll dolls, which always reminds me of Diane Alice Heine’s slumber party in 5th grade. I think you need to see the movie twice just to catch all the visuals.
4. Compelling characters: The whole toy chest full from Andy’s room are so endearing. I have a fondness for Jessie the Cowgirl and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (and their sweet relationship). I’m happy to say that the writers have given Barbie a brain and the qualities of loyalty and compassion. Too bad Mattel can’t make her more anatomically realistic. (Attention Girls: No one can grow up and have Barbie’s body. Remember—she’s a toy!)
TS3 introduces the Ken doll, a metrosexual goofball. I loved Ken’s closet full of vintage Mattel clothes and when he tried on the different outfits for Barbie. Plus the way he walked, talked, and danced—too funny.
The villain of this installment is Lotso the Bear. His sidekick is a bald Cry Baby Doll with a weird eye. The Doll Baby gave me the creeps. Lotso was deliciously sinister. His dictatorship over the other toys sets up the major conflict of the movie: Can Woody help his friends escape from Lotso’s prison at Sunnyside?
5. Story telling and writing: It doesn’t get any better than this. Pixar movies are always clear about plot. TS3 movie begins with a dilemma: Since Andy is going away to college, what will become of his beloved toys?
Woody wants everyone to get stored in the attic and maybe one day be played with again by Andy’s children. But things don’t go according to plan.
Likewise, Pixar movies are always clear about character motivation. You never have to wonder why a character behaves the way he/she does. In TS3 there is a backstory to Lotso and the bald Baby Doll so you understand why they are as mean as they are.
But beyond the writing skill is the level of imagination that infuses the entire movie. It’s inspired, a joy to behold. Favorite scene: When Buzz’s “mode” switch is flipped and he turns into a Spanish-speaking Casanova Super Hero. He makes goo-goo eyes at Jessie and says, “I will show you the wonders of the galaxies and vanquish evil with our love!”
(Don’t leave the theatre during the credits. There’s a fantastic dance scene with Jessie and Buzz that rivals anything you’ll see on Dancing with the Stars. Those two can cut a rug!)
To the actors who voiced the characters, to the writers, to the director, Lee Unkrich: WELL DONE TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!
P.S. Tomorrow in Part 2 I will discuss the themes in Toy Story 3, which help make it an even richer movie going experience. Stay tuned…