It is hard to believe that the first "Toy Story" was released 15 years ago. I myself can still remember seeing the film excitedly with my friends on my 9th birthday. Its sequel, made 4 years later achieved the impossible task of being as highly praised as its predecessor. Simply put, I grew up with these films. They set the template for Pixar as it is today and are two of the best and most loved childrens films ever made. To make a third would be sacrilege, right? Wrong. Pixar haven't got to where they are today by churning out story and relying on tired old routines for their success. The genius of the company lies not just in its stunning animation, but rather its attention to story and its characters. Pixar are walking an extraordinary fine line, in that they (the minor "Cars" aside) have yet to release a lacklustre film. The pressure mounting up with each release must be immense. Added to the fact that these original films have become something more than the huge box office successes they originally were. They have become almost works of art; films to cherish and pass down. So if this film is to succeed it must do so on many levels; box office, prior film achievements and intense love for previous adventures with these characters. How can Pixar satiate all these needs, while still being able to deliver a rousing time at the movies?
Well some day it will inevitably come, but Pixar can sleep calm tonight, for yet again they have delivered a film going experience that can stand proud and tall with the previous entries to the series. In many years to come I believe people will hardly be able to fathom the intense critical and commercial success Pixar have had for years. While only earlier this year Dreamworks made a great claim to the animation crown with "How To Train Your Dragon", this surpasses a lot of almost every other animated films abilities and operates on levels few other films can even dream of. This is the Pixar genius. What most would see as its greatest obstacle, ie the huge passing of time and therefore higher scale of expectation it has drummed up in its fans hearts, Pixar uses as its greatest strength for the latest and last adventure from Woody, Buzz and co. This strength is simply that we have all grown up with this series. Pixar have always played just as well to adults as toddlers, but here it reaches its zenith. Children can laugh and marvel of the characters and adventures they get themselves into, but some adults may be quite shocked by the layer of depth this film has. This film plays with themes of existentialism and confronting ones own mortality. All in eye popping 3D. And its just a kids film?
Years have passed along in real time since the events of the last film. Andy is all grown up. Voiced from the beginning of the series by John Morris, we have all grown up with him. Now too old to play with his toys he is now packing up his life and moving to college. The large group of his toys from the first film has dissipated into a shell group of only a small few, as they all attempt to come to terms with the fact that they have been outgrown. Woody and Buzz realise that they are coming to the end of the line; it is either the rubbish bin, or the attic for them. Events transpire and lead them to the suspiciously named 'Sunnyside Daycare'. Finally they think they have found a new home. Here they will never be outgrown. Here there will always someone to play with them, and they will not be forgotten as Andy has. Or so they think. After an hilarious massacre sequence of the toys and their new very young 'owners' they realise Sunnyside is not for them. But can they break out and find Andy one last time? The film moves at great speed and once it sets its plot in motion, it barely has time to pause. Screenwriter, Michael Arndt manages to throw in some inspired gags into the mix showing that there is still plenty of fun to be had from Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato Head. So while Pixar know that the key to a successful finish is a very emotional one, they do not forget that it is a kids film. These films are as successful as they are because we love going on adventures with these characters. There are some cracking sight gags that stand up with the best of what the company have given us over the years. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen again do sterling work as their now iconic characters. While sometimes veering close to territory that has been covered before, they still manage to enthrall and tickle our funny bone as much as ever. Of the new toys added to the mix, Ned Beatty turns up as a villainous 'Lots-o-Huggin' Bear' and Michael Keaton gains most of the laughs from a very confused 'Ken' doll. His anger at being mistaken as an accessory doll are a prime source of the films many amusing moments.
Staggeringly, the way Pixar decide to round off their incredible trilogy may shock some parents, eager to just simply amuse their tots for an afternoon. Some certainly will not be expecting the film to go the mortality examining places this does and by the end may have some uncomfortable questions from some of its younger fans aimed at them. This however makes for the most moving moments in all the three films and for Pixar to attempt make some of lifes more harsher realities 'tot friendly' shows guts. They achieve this beautifully as all events come naturally, servicing both story and character. As ever, the film is impeccably scripted. Lee Unkrich had the unenviable job of Directing. As editor of the first and Co-Director of the second with John Lasseter, he was more than up to the job. However to round off proceedings to such a pitch perfect degree shows the high level the company works at. They know exactly how to end this story and how it should be done. Playing so perfectly to audience no matter what age they are is one of their defining characteristics, yet this offers emotion in ways other Pixar films haven't. This emotion does not stem from our concern at actions on screen, but rather our own personal feelings. We as the audience have grown with these characters. We have all grown up and got older. It is a fact we have to all come to terms with, as the toys have to as well. We will not be around forever. The film examines this beautifully. Tears come the end are because it is just that, 'the end' that we are crying at.
If this all sound incredibly po-faced and sad then fret not, as the film offers the same great action beats its predecessors had. Our world is animated and realised beautifully, however not overly so, as to keep in with the previous films look. The 3D is used very subtly. It works best in action scenes, but very sparingly and never as a cheap trick. It enhances our world and draws us in closer rather than getting us to jump and 'oohh' and 'aahhh' at objects coming out of the screen at us. Pixar realise that the love these characters have and give them the fitting send off they deserve. Re-visiting their most beloved franchise after 10 years could have been a disaster. Sharp writing, exciting adventure, and the most heart tugging climax you may see all year add up to a perfect end to a perfect trilogy. We may be all getting older but we have certainly not out grown these toys just yet.
An emotional and very fitting send off for Buzz and Woody. The action crackles and the laughs come thick and fast, but it is the emotion that will have you reminiscing about your own childhood and the greatest days of your life, that you will take from the picture.