November 2, 2010
Toy Story 3 is still about life in and out of the toy chest. This time the close-knit coterie of aging playthings faces a new game in town: they're sacked. Andy Davis is ditching his mates from Mattel; he's all grown-up and leaving for college.
In fairness, Andy agonizes over the severance of his bygone buddies, but he can't forever quell the accidents, obstacles, abandonment and obsolescence that will befall them.
Same as most of us, these to-be-retired Fisher-Price pals hoped for comfy continuing-care in a luxe Lego or Lincoln Log cabin on a beach or at least, in a sandbox by the shores of a wading pool, preferably in Andy's backyard.
But life is not so happily-ever-after. Fingering the Ouija of their choices, will it be garage sale, garbage dump, donation, storage or salvage?
Like Cabbage Patch kids, Beanie Babies and other Hasbro-has-beens, the teen's prepubescent playmates face being under-appreciated, over-used, torn-apart, worn-down, beaten-up, left-behind or tossed-out as they commence their rugged retirement.
The rumpus yoyos between turbulent toddlers from Daycare Hell, cuisinart contraptions at the incendiary landfill, and greedy claws of plushies pawing for power.
Leading to the final fracas, the toys wind-up for a showdown. Action figures get revved, Mr. Potato Head gets stuffed, Slinky Dog gets coiled, Army Men go AWOL, animals go wild, mechanical toys go haywire, Big Baby goes bad and Lots-O' goes gonzo.
The scarier moments are punctuated by lighter fare: Barbie arouses metrosexual Ken for a fling thing; Buzz Lightyear's shorted mechanism screws up his inner id; and Mrs. Potato Head chases her all-seeing errant eye.
Miraculously, action happens guided by good writing, great energy, grand imagery and talented voices.
Tom Hanks returns as the fave, Woodie, joined by a cast of thousands: Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Whoopi Goldberg, Timothy Dalton, Laurie Metcalf and Michael Keaton.
Toy Story Three could be a whole-family-movie, but unless your young ones have experienced more than three hair-raising Halloweens, for now, treat them to One and Two.
More than a live movie - even a people-packed action flick - the animation director starts with a titanic challenge: nothing to shoot. Zero. Zip. Zilch. The landscape, costumes, setting and actors must be conceived from scratch.
Good live actors contribute riffs of their own, but every expression or action by an animated character must be imagined, created and micro-managed. The director has the ultimate responsibility.
And the director works one-on-one to record each spoken word. In the case of Toy Story 3, to conceal the plot, voice talent couldn't even read the complete script. So the director also has the absolute liability to assure the separate lines mesh with the whole.
Who knew how much an animation encumbers the director? To see the amazing feat, tune in to the Bonus Features to watch Lee Unkrich navigate the gauntlet.
Extras fans will appreciate the artists' round table conversation about animation development. And the running commentary was bearable despite the temptation to use much of the 103 minutes for mutual bootlicking.
Having just attended two presentations by TS3 script writer Michael Arndt at the 2010 Austin Film Festival, a contribution from him about screen writing for animated films, combined with the aforementioned segments, would have made this Blu-ray indispensable to film aficionados and students.
Arndt, by Festival audience consensus, is one of Hollywood's clearest expositors on script writing. No surprise, he was the 2007 Oscar winner for Best Screenplay, Little Miss Sunshine.
As on-set scribe, Arndt had to round up the creatives' input, translate it into believable storylines and dialogue, resubmit it for final consideration and then polish it for the customary one-and-only take.
According to him, animation writers are not the perennial vestigial appendage to the process, subjected to every Industry whim. Sadly, he was expendable here.
The featured animated music videos of Randy Newman and the Gypsy Kings, plus the in-house "Dancing with the Stars" tango segment, were captivating.
But the majority of the Extras time was spent on Disneyesque self-promo, including a sequence about Paris's Toy Story theme park rides, (Disneyland vacation anyone?) With the November release, the blitz of TS's cuddly playpals and huggable plushies gushed Santa-shopping.
Even the Trivia Game reeked of self-promo, (to win, you better buy the TS trilogy). And there were repeated promos ($$) for a later 3D Blu-ray upgrade (!!).
The anti-piracy ad was cute, but made for whom? Midlife toy geek freaks? Tween pirates? Adult stuff mingling with kids' fluff made the content schizophrenic.
So the tangle of topics, the clutter of content and the wearisome waits for set-ups made the Extras as irritating as they were informative and entertaining.
Where were the editors and organizers of the repetitious, redundant, random, rambling, meandering Bonus Features?
Studio: Walt Disney
Director: Lee Unkrich
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Don Rickles, Laurie Metcalf
Length: 103 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Dolby Digital Stereo, DTS-HD MA 7.1, DTS-HD MA 5.1
Dolby Digital EX 5.1
Dolby Digital EX 5.1
English SDH, Spanish, French