Review Round-Up: ‘Toy Story 3’

Toy Story 3 is just over a week from release and today a plethora of early reviews came pouring in. Pixar has an enormous reputation built up from their recent successes. Up, Wall-E, and Ratatouille have each been among the best films of their respective years and the Pixar team continues to breathe brilliant life into an industry that is becoming more dull and repetitive. Needless to say, their next film has huge expectations.

It should be noted that the reviews for Toy Story 3 that surfaced today are remarkably filled with spoilers, so be cautioned before you click the links to read the entire text. I tried not to include any of those spoilers below.

When it was announced that Pixar’s next film would be a threequel, many were worried that the most inventive studio in existence had lost some of its originality. Richard Corliss of TIME says that the film gives us the characters who we have grown to love, but maintains Pixar’s emotional depth:

What’s more potent is the upping of the emotional ante. TS3 puts its characters and the moviegoing children who love them in their severest crisis yet. Not since the early Disney classics have cartoon characters faced so dire a threat with such heroic grace.

While most animated movie studios have sought for ground-breaking innovation and eye-popping visuals, Pixar has been putting substance over style and packing their films with emotional gravitas. Michael Rechshtaffen of The Hollywood Reporter points out that they continue that approach with great result in Toy Story 3:

“Toy Story 3” might not carry that eye-popping dazzle of 1995’s milestone original that put Pixar on the map, but, in the absence of groundbreaking innovation, there’s a greater depth that isn’t solely attributable to those now-ubiquitous goofy glasses.

Playing with more darkly complex emotions than the previous two installments, incoming director Lee Unkrich (co-director of “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.”) and screenwriter Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”) manage to add nice substance without noticeably weighing down the beloved characters.

In general “threequels” are hard to justify. If a franchise is successful its characters are likable, but its plots are generally wrapped up pretty sufficiently in the first two films. Peter Debruge of Variety gives the film’s first slightly negative review saying that while the film was enjoyable, it wasn’t entirely necessary:

Andy outgrows his anthropomorphic amigos Buzz and Woody in “Toy Story 3,” the franchise’s third (and final?) installment — and as it turns out, 15 years after launching the computer-animated toon revolution, Pixar has outgrown them, too. Whereas “Toy Story 2” treated auds to a character-based sequel that handily justified its existence, this tertiary adventure delivers welcome yet nonessential fun, landing well after its creators have grown up and succeeded toying with more sophisticated stories. Nevertheless, the stereoscopic 3D release, which reportedly out-tested all of Pixar’s previous efforts, should dominate summer playdates.

Anne Thompson of indieWIRE’s Thompson on Hollywood completely disagrees with Debruge saying that instead every other studio movie this year has been nonessential while Pixar’s Toy Story 3 is the only relevant film in a while. She also predicts a great box office performance:

Pixar does not rest on its laurels here. This is sophisticated storytelling crammed with visual, editing and sonic cues (Randy Newman is back in fine form), as the movie veers entertainingly (not jarringly) from one genre to another and deploys more and more complex technology as it goes. And like Up, it reaches into the heart and squeezes. My bet: with a boost from 3D (which like How to Train Your Dragon and Up is an organic, immersive enhancement), this will be the movie to beat as the summer’s top performer.

It sounds like so far it’s good news from one of the summer’s most hotly anticipated films. Soon we’ll probably be hearing from some of those rain-on-your-parade critics who seem to dislike everything. If they can appreciate it, then we’re in for a treat. Toy Story 3 will be in theatres on June 18.

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  • It’s Pixar, so I’m sure it’s going to be good (the closest they’ve ever come to making a bad film was “A Bug’s Life”, and that one was still good). But truthfully, I haven’t been less excited for one of their films in a while. I liked the first two “Toy Stories”, but they weren’t anywhere near the studio’s later work. So this one doesn’t interest me as much as some of their other recent films. Same goes for “Cars 2” (although I enjoyed the original “Cars” a lot).

    I’m much more interested in their upcoming films “Brave” and “Newt”.

  • I completely agree with you. The idea of “threequels” in general turns me off unless if is for a pre-packaged trilogy.

    However, it sounds like Pixar works their usual magic with this one.

  • Also, did you know that Brad Bird is going to be doing a live-action film about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? That could be interesting.

  • Jose

    @G1000, I thought he was working on Mission: Impossible 4?

  • Not according to the Wikipedia entry on Pixar (which I don’t see as having any reason to lie).

  • You are both correct – he is writing and directing ‘1906’ which is expected to be released in 2012. He is also directing ‘Mission Impossible IV’ which is being written by J.J. Abrams, Josh Appelbaum, and Andre Nemec and slated for release in 2011.

  • wall-3

    I’m so sick of Pixar. They ruin all of their films with boring chase scenes. Wall-e had the potential to be a haunting masterpiece, something we’ve never seen from the studio (stylistically and thematically), before fitting the standard Pixar mold, ending with an extensive, sugary sweet chase scene full of whimsical nonsense.

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