Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Toy Story 3 Review - the game continues...

Watching the almost deliriously excited faces (even beneath the 3D glasses) on the crowds of young and old piling through the cinema doors, giant buckets of popcorn overflowing and gallons of oversweet, fizzy soft drinks at the ready, it’s clear that expectations are high for the latest and grand finale of the epic Toy Story saga. And so it would seem that Pixar - the hailed masters of the computer animation innovation - are really going to have their work cut out for them to top their previous achievements yet again.
But of course, this is Pixar we are talking about and they have never been one to turn down a unique film-delight making challenge (just consider those extra little pleasures such as ‘WALL-E’, ‘Up’ and ‘Ratatouille’). And so, unsurprisingly, all expectations of these animator greats have yet again been taken ‘to infinity, and beyond’ (sorry, couldn’t resist…), and the long wait justified as what could arguably be the best Toy Story yet has finally been catapulted onto our screens with a huge dose of Pixar magic.
With an eleven year gap since the Toy Story 3’s predecessor - Toy Story 2 - was released in 1999, and fifteen years since the original phenomenon in 1995 empowered our lives - and whole way of regarding our toys – it couldn’t be more fitting to find Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the individually hilarious and lovable gang also feeling the pressures of time.
And with time, of course, comes the matter of growing up and dealing with the natural changes that go with it – a subject handled in a somewhat beautifully relatable and emotional way by Pixar. After an explosive opening at the hands of Andy’s childhood imagination, time whisks past until the audience joins a now 17-year-old Andy about to go off to college. As the familiar ‘clear out’ takes place, and the “junk” sorted from that to be put in storage, a mistake is made and our favourite toys find themselves being donated to Sunnyside Day Care – a place, according to the centre’s chief strawberry - scented teddy bear , Lotso, where abandoned toys can find happiness, and never be unwanted again.
Of course, if things were this simple, it would be a pretty boring finale, and soon the toys find that Sunnyside isn’t quite the toy haven they initially anticipated. With bundles of new, rather delightful characters including a hysterically camp Ken, thespian hedgehog Mr Pricklepants, and slightly disturbing Big Baby, it eventually comes down to the determination of our favourite cowboy and his merry companions to put things right again – an outcome that is often questioned in this dramatic and highly emotive final instalment.
Whilst this widely acclaimed ‘adult kids movie’ tackles ‘adult’ themes of mortality, rejection, and change, it is also superbly balanced with a whole load of the usual ‘kiddy’ gags, silliness, (Spanish, salsa dancing Buzz is simply genius…) adventure, and morals that makes Toy Story so appealing to so many different people. And what’s more, it’s the kind of film which seems to create a neighbourly feel amongst all. Just as there was not a sullen face to be seen walking into the cinema (not even from the cinema staff…) there was neither one to be found coming out. Instead, warm knowing looks and beaming smiles were passed around the blinking viewers as they emerged from the darkness, animated chatter boomed through the foyer, and bursts of laughter could be heard all the way down to the car park as particular lines were remembered and (almost) repeated exactly. A unique and happy atmosphere just as I remember it - from fifteen years ago.
As well as the irrefutable feeling of exhilaration and intense desire to do it all over again as you step away from the Toy Story roller coaster that will undoubtedly go down as one of the best film trilogies ever, there is no avoiding the sadness. The fusion of a tear-jerker ending, and knowledge that this really is the last ride - so to speak (as far as we know at this point anyways…) - works as a crashing realisation – particularly for those who have grown-up alongside the films - that maybe it really is time to put the toys down and finally embrace adulthood.

- But then of course there will always be the trilogy box set to watch with our children and grand-children, and great-grandchildren forever more.
Let’s face it; playtime will never really be over.