Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Michael Keaton (voices)
Directed By: Lee Unkrich
One of the funniest scenes in Toy Story 3 involves new character Ken. Moreover it actually involves Barbie disguised as Ken. The joke comes from the fact that Ken’s clothes are overtly feminine in style, so much so that when Barbie’s stilettos are revealed beneath her disguise it does not give the game away. Her sceptic merely rolls his eyes. Ken wears high heel shoes? Sure, that seems about right.
Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton) is a perfect addition to Toy Story 3 because like very other character in this world there is more to him than meets the eye. Take Woody, the superficially selfish cowboy who is deep down unflinchingly loyal. Or Rex, an accident prone dinosaur who brings havoc to every situation but is always desperate to help. Ken’s precondition is his unawareness, which ostensibly puts him on a par with Buzz in Toy Story 1. Although camp like Christmas, he is totally unaware of himself. As far as Ken is concerned he is as masculine as GI Joe, only better dressed.
Character revelation plays an important role in Toy story 3, though delving into why would spoil the plot, which should be enjoyed as fresh as possible. For a somewhat reassembled but largely new production team, the tone is fast-paced and fun, yet scattered with moments of dark pause. First time solo director Lee Unkrich has crafted an experience true to the unofficial Pixar ethos: not just films for children; films for all.
These darker moments are arguably what make Pixar movies most akin to the beloved Disney toons of the late 1930s-40’s (N.B. it is Disney/Pixar don’t forget). The climax of Toy Story 3 before the epilogue, again being careful not to spoil anything, is reminiscent of the forest coming alive scene in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), i.e. we actually fear for the safety of those on screen. There is a genuine sense that Pixar will do whatever they need to tell the story they want.
Despite the toys’ owner Andy now seventeen years old and off to college, there is still emotional mileage in his transition from child to man. He is not entirely ready to say goodbye to his toys, and by extension his childhood. The actor who voices Andy, John Morris, is now twenty five; he has grown up with the films. His performance, as with his mom voiced by Laurie Metcalf, is painfully real and for much of the audience we are sure, an all too familiar farewell to innocence.
If all this sounds a tad heavy for what is essentially a family movie, don’t worry, you will barely even notice the pathos. Among a madcap inventive, if hardly original in scope, daycare ‘prison’ break, sentiment is drip fed in characteristically deft Pixar fashion. So much so that you might well be crying by the end of it all, but be damned if you really know why.
With the animation predictably stunning (though the leap in realism for human characters is something of a shock), Toy Story 3 has warmth and humour in every single scene that not only makes it the best of the trilogy, but the best film Pixar have ever made.
Toy Story 3 is on general release now.
© 2010 – 2012, Christopher Laverty.