REVIEW: Toy Story 3: Special Cliffhanger Edition

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A new correspondent, Shawn, submitted the following exclusive:

I’ll start by saying I haven’t watched Toy Story 2 recently enough to do the Pixar rankings everyone likes to do. In Toy Story (1995), we met Woody, Buzz and the gang, and Toy Story 2 (1999) was a rescue Woody/Buzz Lightyear’s father story. They are all stories of friendship, loyalty and one’s place in a world of humans who don’t always maintain these traits. True to form, Toy Story 3 is a continuation of these themes. The movie is essentially answering the question of how different types of toys deal with their prime directive of be-played-with-and-make-their-owner-happy as times and people change.

So anyway, since the last movie ended Woody, Buzz and Co. have been concocting schemes to get now college-aged Andy to play with them. For example, they steal Andy’s phone and put it in their toy box so that when he calls it, they’re right there. While cleaning and storing for college, Andy’s mom accidentally puts the toys on the curb for trash collection. They eventually end up in a box bound for daycare, believing Andy abandoned them even though he actually intended to put them in the attic for safe keeping.

At this point, the plot is set in motion as their eventual conflict with Lot-so-Huggin’ bear is set up. Lot-so is the don of Sunnyside, a repository for older, once loved toys. At Sunnyside, toys fulfill their earthly wish for playtime. The rub is, Lot-so runs the place and puts newcomers with the 3 year olds in the Caterpillar Room. The Caterpillar Room is the AAA affiliate of Lot-so’s room of older, gentler children. When you first arrive, you’re put it in there and you can basically expect to get beaten up everyday. Whoever plays the game and survives Caterpillar gets called up. Once in the other room, one can expect to live out a sweet life with the elite. When the not so savory parts of Lot-so’s operation come to light, the gang needs to act.

In my opinion, the movie is another success for Pixar. It has the heart, but isn’t the least bit heavy handed sentimental, which it easily could’ve been. The introduction from the director before the movie talks about he made this movie with individuals my age in mind. I was 6 when this movie came out and it was one of, if not the first, movies I saw in theatres. His thesis was that Andy and the college students in the audience had almost parallel trajectories. Marketing gimmick? Maybe. I don’t much care because it is effective in enhancing how I frame the movie. It continues the Pixar tradition of making kid’s movies that don’t feel like kid’s movies.

The best part about the movie is that it assumes its audience has a connection to these characters and the universe they live in, thereby needing no introductory fluff. Standouts moments from the story include the opening train heist scene between Woody and Potato-head, the Sunnyside henchmen and factory reset Buzz.

Truly, the only gripe I had was a small one with the introduction of Ken, of Barbie fame. By any normal standard he’s a funny minor character and he works in the context of the movie, but I couldn’t help thinking that he was a bit Dreamworksian. I could see Ken in Shrek. If that’s my only problem with the movie I’m guessing I’ll call it a win. Randy Newman music is obviously present but only in “Friend In Me” form.

I guess it goes without saying that the animation in TS3 is fantastic and I can only imagine how much better the eventual 3D release will be. I didn’t notice any moments in the movie that were built for a pop-out 3D moment so I can assume that it will be well integrated into the movie.

But wait, Shawn, doesn’t any self-respecting reviewer always criticize endings? Well, the cut of the movie I saw was called the Cliffhanger Edition because they apparently weren’t done mixing the movie. I saw 70 of a possible 85 some minutes. Therefore, the movie cut to black right before the grand mission was about to jump off so I really can’t say whether they succeed in emancipating themselves from Sunnyside. I can, however, with my history of cinematic analysis, project the most likely ending.

Lot-so sees the writing on the wall and assembles all of his cronies to stop the exodus. Upon seeing Woody leading the charge, he pulls out his sword. Woody enters a Mecha and catches the sword just as it swings toward his head. Lot-so isn’t sure what to do, so he shoots his grapple and we’re led to believe he’s gone. Of course you were led to believe that, but the problem is that he jumps back into frame and is Robo-cop. Woody, knowing he needs to finish Robo-Lotso off before the place explodes, runs toward the top deck of the ship. He climbs the mast and drops a moon-rock on Lot-so. There’s lots of smashed toy blood. The end.

Thanks Shawn!


UP, Two thumbs…

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I’m surprised I’m the first MLDer to write something about UP. I would have thought with the rate at which the other MLDers seem to see movies, I’d be merely joining THEIR conversation. As it turns out, I’m first. Yep, I have a short memory. Angie was INDEED first, and it seems I’m echoing her feelings!

Pixar is the best animation studio out there, in terms of consistent hits. It’s not just the excellent CGI/cartoonistry, it’s the solid story writing and perfect casting. It isn’t all princesses and heroes. It’s small stories, small people/things/toys/animals writ large, speaking to the universal person in all of us. Pixar doesn’t deny the existence of sadness and death, either. Even though UP, and the other Pixar films, are animated features, there’s a lot more reality to them than even live-action movies anymore.

I don’t want to give anything away about UP, but I have to say I fought back tears several times during the film, especially during the opening 20 minutes. Masteful mix of backstory, montage and segue back into present day that didn’t feel hokey and easily sold me on the emotional merits of the film.

And honestly, I also like the film because when my hair grows in, I look a lot like the chubby Wilderness Explorer Russell. Also, I’ve wanted to hang out with Ed Asner since I saw reruns of FISH when I was 6.

Go see UP.


Movie Review: Disney ● Pixar*s UP!

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Last week we were lucky enough that one of our friends was unable to attend a screening of UP! I grew up as a Disney junkie, and then immediately fell in love with all things Pixar. I’m not sure about Pete’s love of Disney, but the humor of Pixar movies has always seemed to draw him in.  Last year there was Wall●E.  Sad.  But Awesome.  This year, UP!.  Holy Tearjerker, Batman!  I’m not sure if it is just because I am at a different point in my life than when I was first introduced to Pixar movies, but each one I see seems more geared towards adults than the previous.   I may have to rewatch all my Pixar movies and see the adult side of them.  There were issues in this movie that I don’t think have ever been so forwardly addressed.  But we will see – I will update after the rewatch 🙂

While I still think a child could be greatly entertained by this movie, I think it is meant for adults.  If you are in love, or have ever been in love, you will love it.  You will hate it for tearing you to pieces, but you will love it.  I was crying just thinking about the movie after.  I am not a crier.  I don’t think.  I don’t want to give anything away – so go and see it.  And enjoy.