|Directed by:||Lee Unkrich|
|Written by:||Michael Arndt|
|Cast:||Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf, R. Lee Ermey, Jodi Benson, Ned Beatty, Bonnie Hunt, Timothy Dalton, Jeff Garlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Keaton|
More than a decade after the last movie in the series the third entry in the Toy Story franchise was released. Obviously that risk of not knowing if a new audience would take to the Toy Story world was there but as we all know that risk paid off when Toy Story 3 blew up at the box office making over a billion dollars all the while being a critical darling.
Now I enjoyed the first movie quite a bit... a lot actually and would actually say that I love both it and the second movie in the series, so naturally I was interested in a third entry, even if my interest in the franchise wasn’t as strong as it was ten years ago. Still, that nostalgia factor was there, and I was eager to jump back into the world so I bought a ticket. I walked out drained due to all the disappointment I had just sat through. In fact there were more than a few times where I was so bored with the movie that I actually wanted to walk out of the theatre mid way through the movie (and I’ve never done that in my life).
Thankfully though I didn’t, because the movie’s final scene was brilliant, it was surprisingly moving and emotional, just perfectly crafted and implemented in such a delicate, effecting way. It brought back all of those feelings from 10 plus years ago and amplified them, exposing the viewer’s true connection to the characters.
As for the rest of the movie well, it didn’t do much right is putting it nicely. Truth be told though I actually really enjoyed the opening of the movie. The Old West sequence immediately dropped you back into the playful world with that trademark innocence and adventure of the first two films. The next couple scenes followed it up very well and got me getting comfy in my seat for a fun experience, more than anything the first few scenes were in a word, promising.
And then we’re presented with the meat of the movie, the Daycare. The problem with the movie is so simple but so huge, the driving force of the story is lackluster, unexciting and feels second rate even though Disney and Pixar had all their best-of-the-best working on this one. Nothing really works, the comedy is extraordinarily weak (“Nice as… cot” really?) and falls flat every time as do the various gags like Spanish Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato Pancake Head. The writing feels borderline lazy and never manages to light that fire that world had in previous adventures. The returning characters, while it’s great to see them return, make a by the numbers return and are written (and voiced) as if they’re just phoning it in.
The new characters are forgettable, though they did carry some potential. Unfortunately Lotso just doesn’t leave a lasting impression and feels more like a villain from a Toy Story television series than a feature length theatrical villain. There are points where it seems they attempt to make the audience care for and sympathize with him, turning him into a flawed character who’s just had a bad trip… but then they turn around and create scene after scene (and especially the final scene with his character) that represents an almost totally different character with no redeeming qualities, a heart of coal and as if he’s now just a one dimensional bad guy that’s bad just to be bad, effectively making everything we saw with him earlier (as ‘good’ Lotso) pointless. It just seems so awkward and wrong, especially in a movie like this trying to send a good message to children, don’t trick them into thinking that he’s a redeemable character but instead show that he had something bad happen to him so he’s forever evil. “If you have something bad happen to you and you get stuck in a rut, don’t worry – you’re screwed”, what kind of lesson is that?
The life force of the movie (during the meat of it) is just so unfortunately weak, each sequence that moves the story forward once at the Daycare is just as unexciting as the last. It’s played up and made to seem exciting or intense but never manages to recreate or capture the way the first two movies managed to do this and ends up feeling forced and second rate. It all builds up to the mega event, the Toys about to be incinerated. That idea falls flat nearly the second it hits and I’m not sure why they even tried it. Maybe they couldn’t come up with a better climax or maybe they were just lazy (and witnessing the scenes before that it wouldn’t be hard to believe either). I mean really, it just felt like such a cheap attempt at making the audience get worried, but for the life of me I can’t see how it would work on anyone over the age of 10. The Toys were never going to die and they didn’t, hell even the bad guy who was revealed to be nothing but a purely evil character survives. It’s about as reasonable as getting worried that your child might witness a sex scene between Ken and Barbie in the movie. However, movies can still do this and succeed. It’s very difficult, but threat and risk can be pulled off in movies like this, the problem was though that they didn’t pull it off at all. They seemed to attempt it but never hit the mark and instead they created an anticlimactic scene that just came off as cheap, uninspired and most importantly ineffective.
Toy Story 3 is just a disappointment of a movie. It had all the potential in the world but never capitalized on it like it should have. As stated the opening few scenes are a treat and all in all are quite promising for the future of the movie, though as soon as we hit the Daycare the movie rockets to the rock bottom and stays there until the Toys are back at Andy’s. Thankfully the movie doesn’t end there and Pixar somewhat redeems themselves with the brilliant final scenes that really hit the spot emotionally like few others do. All in all though 15 minutes of a great movie doesn’t make up for the other 100 minutes of a bad movie. Because the meat of the movie just feels so lazy and rotten, so unlikable, uninteresting, and most unfortunately just not fun -- the movie can’t be considered a success at all for me. Too many times during the meat of the movie does it feel forced, not only in the adventure and fun of it all but also with heart, it all feels like it just tries too hard and tries in the wrong way up until that ending scene where it seems they finally got tired of missing the mark for the whole movie and managed to hit a giant, galloping bullseye.
All in all the movie was and still is a gigantic disappointment for me, even after trying to watch it several times. Fortunately as said there is some to salvage as the opening 15 minutes or so just makes any Toy Story fan (or even just anyone that saw the previous movies all those years ago) feel warm and glad that it's back. While nearly everything that comes after that does the opposite, the final scene is the definition of a tear jerker and was so well conceived and executed that it could even make someone like myself, who did not enjoy the vast majority of the movie, totally get into it and just genuinely love it. It really brings back all the memories and with that the emotions in such a grand way in those final moments and it still surprises me to this day as while I always really enjoyed the Toy Story movies and characters I never really realized I had that deep of an emotional connection to them until the final scene of this movie, which ends up being one of the best bookends I've ever seen in a movie series. But alas, 20 minutes or so can't make up for the other 100 minutes of schlock, so unfortunately this one gets a pretty low score. Not recommended.