Infinity is Here: A Toy Story 3 Review

Who will Save Buzz?

As I mentioned yesterday, all went to see Toy Story 3 (in 2D) at a 2230 showing. We mostly had the theatre to ourselves – it was somewhere between one quarter and one half full – great for a movie that hadn’t been out very long. But, we are odd ducks in our hatred of 3D. I thought the movie was the perfect ending to the trilogy. You never know when the entertainment industry is involved and there’s money to be made, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read that the Toy Story franchise is done as far as feature-length movies go. Given the nice, neat close this movie gave to the characters, it’s probably best that way. I’d like to get into some potential spoiler material to explain why I enjoyed the movie so much. I’ll probably go in order along with the movie so you can decide when to jump off if you think it’s too much information.

Pixar opens up Toy Story 3 in the same way the second one opened up – taking place within the fictional world of the characters. In TS2 it was a Buzz Lightyear videogame. In TS3 it is Andy’s imagination. Not only is this a really fun scene to watch, but it sets up the time passage montage in which you see how Andy kept playing with Buzz, Woody, and friends over the course of his childhood. We arrive at the present day and Andy’s room looks like the room of a high school student. The only remnant of his childhood is his Woody-themed toybox. The toys stage a last-ditch effort to be played with by Andy. It fails, of course, because Andy is 17. But it succeeds in showing the audience that most of the toys are now gone. This should enable the toys to realize they are special to Andy and, therefore, believe Woody that Andy meant to put them in the attic and that they were put out with the garbage by accident. However, TS3 is a continuation of the themes of the TS arc (more on this later) so, once again, they don’t believe Woody.

So the toys end up at a day care center. (Which, interestingly enough, has a lobby that looks almost exactly like my parents’ day care center) It is not a spoiler that things go wrong here. It’s almost a shame that part of the plot was spoiled in the trailers. I think it would have been a very neat plot twist for the bear to suddenly go evil on them. Well, it’ll be a plot twist for kids who watch it on DVD a few years from now.

Once again Pixar returns to the themes of the TS arc with a Buzz malfunction. To recap: in TS 1 he doesn’t yet know he’s a toy. In TS2, he gets switched with a Buzz that doesn’t know he’s a toy. And, in TS3, he gets reset to demo mode and … wait for it … doesn’t know he’s a toy. In the theatre and immediately afterwards, I felt a bit cheated that Pixar had relied on the same jokes and plot structures over and over again. Both the aforementioned distrust of Woody’s advice and Buzz’s malfunctions were key plot points. Of course, Pixar uses this with great, nearly redeeming humor. First off is a return to Buzz calling the toys by hilarious names. For example, Potato Head is called something Tuber Man and Ham was called Slotted Pig in one of the previous movies. Second is Buzz being turned into a Spanish version of demo Buzz when Woody and company screw up while trying to get his memory back. Even though the dialog was translated, it was extra fun for me as a Spanish speaker to hear buzz speaking Spanish. The voice they chose was perfect and it made me wonder if it was the voice actor from the Spanish localization of Toy Story.

At any rate, looking back on the movie as I write this review I realize that there’s a certain logic to this reuse of story and humor. The main characters are KID’S toys. Perhaps they’re not meant to mature and have character growth. Perhaps by virtue of being kid’s toys they retain their essential character so that they can always provide the same service to the kid over and over. Or maybe I’m giving Pixar too much credit. Maybe it’s best that Pixar has mostly concentrated on making new movies rather than on making sequels. This doesn’t give me much hope for Cars 2, but then again I wasn’t too keen on the first Cars. Let’s just say that after watching this movie I was trying to picture what they could do with a Monsters, Inc 2 and just hoping they would leave those characters alone.

In the end, Woody orchestrates for Andy to donate the toys to a little girl who has possession of him for a while in the middle of the movie. This was preferable to having them languish in the attic, waiting for a chance at being played with by Andy’s children. After all, they are toys and they gain their whole meaning from being played with. This entire franchise has been, in a way, a series of existentialist movies disguised as kid movies. It was touching to see how Andy reacts to giving away all the toys, especially Woody, who he was planning to keep through college. I know I’ve felt that way with old toys I’ve given away — after all, there’s a reason I hung on to them for so long. They had some sentimental value. But it’s all super happy as the girl plays with all the toys (and you saw her really enjoying her toys earlier in the movie). What a sweet and happy ending!

Unfortunately, there was a bit of bittersweet ending at the end which Danielle used to “ruin” the movie for me. She pointed out that the main conflict of this movie (as well as TS2 for Jesse) is that the kid has grown up and no longer plays with his toys. So, the toys are doomed to go through all this chaos again as THIS kid grows up. So the movie goes from a happy ending to a “happy … for now” ending.

Overall, it’s the perfect Pixar movie. As they mention in the Toy Story 2 DVD, they LOVE to make you think success is about to happen and then yank it away at the last minute. This movie is chock full of such moments. The movie works on both the adult level and kiddie level in the way that Pixar is so good at. This ranges from adults sympathizing with certain emotions as a parent or as having once been a kid to jokes (I’m thinking right now of the Barbie moments) that kids will get when they’re older. If you’re into Toy Story and want to finish the story, go see this movie. If you’re into Pixar in general, go see this movie. If you just like movies (as long as you aren’t averse to animation like some people I know), go see this movie. It is what most sequels aren’t —just as good as all the movies it adds to. (if not better)


10 responses to “Infinity is Here: A Toy Story 3 Review”

  1. I liked the movie a lot. And as much as I liked the end, I did have the same thought as Danielle – the main problem is only temporarily solved. I like to think that it’s because there’s no other good way to resolve the problem, but it also kinda leaves the door open to make more movies (maybe straight to DVD?) with the same characters and similar plots.

    • I wonder how many other people interpreted it that way. I’m sure Dan will pipe in after he’s seen the movie. For a counter-example, my father saw it as a happy ending. He felt that girl, given how much she likes toys, would probably make sure they got to another kid when she grew up.

      • I think that Toy Story 3 was never meant to have a blanket happy ending. Both sequels deal pretty heavy in the passage of time and the fleeting, temporary opportunities we have to truly enjoy ourselves.

        Woody and the gang have another bunch of years before Bonnie grows up and hopefully donates her toys, but there is no permanence. It’s not meant to be bittersweet, it’s meant to be happy for that moment in time and, hopefully, in future ones should she choose to donate the toys (which they push pretty hard as the unselfish, right thing to do). Even the toys are about bringing joy to their owners, not the other way around. Being selfish is what got Andy’s toys stuck in the Sunnyside predicament. If they had made their goal to be there for Andy instead of being played with, they wouldn’t have had those issues.

        Perhaps the main problem isn’t solved, but Woody and the gang are in prime position to continue to make someone else happy until they, themselves break down or she grows out of it.

        • I recently heard an NPR review that dealt with the philosophy behind the Toy Story series. It has a lot to do with existentialism, but also a few other philosophies that were mentioned. I guess, it’s not so much that the ending wasn’t saccharine. It’s more that I’m not used to Western animation dealing with more adult topics. I know that Pixar certainly hasn’t pandered to audiences, but I think you can say that, on the whole, all of the movies had had happy endings. And so, as the last movie in the series, it’s jarring that they didn’t. It’s more realistic, but it’s jarring. It’s also not as tidy as I like my fiction to be – but that’s a purely personal thing. At least it’s great fodder for the fan fiction.

          • Think of it like the jokes for adults that pepper children’s movies. It’s an ending that seems like it’s for the kids, but is more mature and interesting. The maturation of Western animation can only mean good things, IMHO.

            I’m ok with untidy endings. Sometimes I like to leave a theater thinking. It also makes for more interesting conversation sometimes, even if it’s just “The ending sucked!”

  2. I get the general impression that you actually didn’t like this movie, which is a shame because it beats the tar out of TS2 which beats the tar out of TS. As the studio matures it seems to be more and more capable of handling mature stories.

    You know, I kind of like the idea that the Sunnyside toys would maintain a library of toy manuals. It’s a shame that the only useful victim of that knowledge would be Buzz, because it repeats plot points, but it was so funny and awesome that I couldn’t really complain.

    Besides, the movie was done so much better than the previous two that I think a little repetition is fine if it refines concepts and does them better.

    More alarming than any of that is the reinforced homophobia that seemed to surround Ken’s character. “Let’s laugh at the effeminate man because he’s borderline gay!” I didn’t feel right whenever one of those jokes came up. We shouldn’t be exposing kids to that.

    Also, Monsters, Inc., not as good as you think it is. I’d much rather see a sequel to any other PIxar movie (including A Bug’s Life).

    • Hehe, the funny thing is that I really liked Toy Story 3. I felt like it was one of my top Pixar movies. (WALL*E is currently #1) I just didn’t want to fawn over the movie – everyone else is doing that. I wanted to point out the stuff that stuck out at me. Esp because the repetition felt a bit lazy the third time around (even though it was hella funny – “VAQUERO!” is something Danielle and I have taken to saying at random moments).

      I didn’t see the Ken character as much about homophobia as Camp Straight. But I can see where it’s on a fine line.

      Finally, it’s not that Monsters, Inc is so awesome – it’s that I think a sequel would be so horrible.

      • But don’t you see what I’m saying? Camp straight is a stereotype being reinforced as “wrong” by the movie. When the letter comes in looking all girly, the male toys are horrified to see that it’s from Ken, not Barbie. I just think it’s not Pixar’s best decision and it preys on homosexual stereotypes.