References to Cool Hand Luke
Barbie and Ken's relationship
A mature plot aimed at older audiences
Less than amazing 3D
Disney's Pixar Studio is in fine form again in this third episode in the Toy Story franchise. Acknowledging the advancement in age of the original's target audience, in this instalment Andy, the toys' owner, has grown up and is leaving for college. His collection of toys are intended to be stored in the attic but through a twist of fate end up being donated to a day care centre, which in contrast to the life of obsolescence in grown-up Andy's forgotten toy chest, appears at first to be a paradise of being played with all day.
Of course things aren't what they at first appear, and Woody, Buzz and the gang soon discover that a pseudo-fascist regime dictates the placement of toys in the centre and rules with an iron (or rather plastic) fist. Andy's toys are consigned to the chaotic maelstrom of the toddler's room where they are subject to hilariously violent treatment by the over-exuberant tots, and it becomes a race to escape before total annihilation.
As usual the voice acting of Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear is excellent, and the story provides many a reference to older prison-break movies such as Cool Hand Luke which although completely lost on the younger demographic, generate lots of knowing chuckles from the older audience. Some of the best laughs are to be had from the blossoming relationship between Barbie and Ken who, in their words, seem 'made for each other'. Voiced brilliantly by Michael Keaton, Ken's vanity and obsession with clothes is charming and amusing whilst simultaneously poking fun at and identifying himself with the 'valley girl' mentality of his would-be owners.
The darker themes of rejection and subjugation are perfectly embodied by the menacing Big Baby. This battered and neglected toy acts as henchman to the evil Lots-o-Huggin' Bear and silently carries out his orders staring emotionlessly from his one working eye.
Over all the film has very wide appeal and Pixar, as usual, have rendered the animation beautifully. In addition to Andy growing up it seems the story-line of this film also shows signs of maturity, to such a degree in fact, that I'd guess they wrote this one with the older audience in mind. My only real criticism is for the use of 3D. Toy Story 3 never truly embraces the opportunities provided by the technology and it seems more of an add-on rather than a whole extra dimension. This could be explained by the idea that DVD and Blu-Ray are the recognised ultimate platforms for this kind of film, and 3D just doesn't work so well on the small screen. While the third dimension offers the chance to up-sell in cinemas, the film compromises the capability of 3D for the home-viewing market.
I'd recommend Toy Story 3 as much more than a family film, it serves equally well as a date movie and will have all age-groups laughing. There are thrills and tender moments in equal share and skilful direction has avoided the heavy after-taste of saccharine so common in other Disney productions. Seeing it in 3D is worth a little extra out-lay, but bear in mind its improvement to the experience is subtle.