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Toy Story 3 - Blu-ray Review


Toy Story 3 - Movie Review

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There is longstanding aim of excellence in the Pixar camp and Toy Story 3, regardless of its status as third in the series, richly continues in that grand tradition.  Bursting with a tireless energy that reunites the entire gang of familiar toys (plus some new ones), the conclusion to the Toy Story saga that started in 1995 is an emotionally rewarding rollercoaster ride that speaks to the soul of the audience – no matter their age – and dares to explore the perceived limitations of a maturing imagination when it becomes time to let go.

Starting with a premise that was hinted at in Toy Story 2, Director Lee Unkrich and Screenwriter Michael Arnt present the audience with Andy – as an 18 year old - who is leaving for college and must do something with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark, filling in for a now-deceased Jim Varney), and his Squeeze Toy Aliens (Jeff Pidgeon).  Prompted by his mother to clean out his room, Andy decides to keep Woody and bag the others for the attic.  Instead, they get thrown out and eventually donated to Sunnyside Day Care.   Abused, beaten, and mercilessly used by children who are too young to play with them correctly the gang finds life in the day care center to be a downright and undeserved drag.  To make matters worse, the gang is faced with the sinister plotting of Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty, giving the character a delicious duplicity) and his follow-the-lead cronies in the characters of Ken (hilariously voiced by Michael Keaton) and Big Baby (who is the most frightening character EVER in this series).  It is Woody, after having his own series of adventures, who must return to save his gang from their enslavement at the day care and return them to their true home.

After an engaging and instantly charming opening courtesy of Andy’s imagination, we are presented with a wonderfully modern showcasing of the passage of time.  Immediately identifiable for parents and teens, Arnt shows us just how much things have changed for the toys due to Andy’s age.  It also depicts, rather humorously, at what lengths the toys will go just to be held by their owner again.  Yes, their feet are still marked with his familiar black marker scrawl, but he just doesn’t seem to care for them anymore.  The scene is truly touching and, with characters this familiar, a remarkable feat to pull off without any been-there-before feelings.  Then, when there is no hope in being played with again, the toys – unified by Woody’s undying love for Andy – prepare themselves for life in the attic.  Their commitment, their love for Andy and for each other is where the center of this film lies.

Darker and more detailed than the previous installments, Toy Story 3 – while focused on the brotherhood between the toys – develops a certain maturity from the rather adult commitment established when the gang finds themselves accidentally put on the curb for the trash to collect and later when imprisoned in Sunnyside.  Wonderfully and poignantly bringing everything together with some incredibly smart writing is the simple idea of the usefulness in seemingly useless items outgrown and disposed of as trash.

Yes, our heroes are simply trash and, as such things, they are salvaged only by being treated like trash.  Indeed, being a toy is not all fun and games.  And then, as if it wasn’t enough to see Buzz get brutalized then brainwashed by Lotso and his thugs, the trash motif is picked up for a third – and final – time in a tension-filled finale that gathers more gasps (and tears at the corners of the eyes) and worrisome hand wringing than the suspense in a Hitchcock thriller.  Again, the fact that we care about the fates of these toys (who actually have developed characters) speaks volumes about the magic that is Pixar.

The movie isn’t all dark, however, there are some monstrously hilarious moments resulting from Buzz’s brainwashing and his new flip-of-the-switch latino stylings.  Even Mr. Potato Head gets a moment to shine with an unexpected wobbling body overhaul.  While mostly serving as baddies, some of the new characters add a little glamour to the film’s sheen, too.  Yes, I am referring to the inclusion of Ken and his ascots and his Sex in the City-styled wardrobe closet.  It is true.  He’s perfect for Barbie (Jodi Benson).

With an ending that takes its time and truly wraps up the storylines for all of the beloved characters (including, rather cleverly and sweetly, Andy), it is hard not to get choked up – just unexpected.  Almost out of nowhere and definitely unannounced is the film’s overall impact.  It creeps, it crawls, but suddenly there it is; the familiar Pixar knot-in-the-throat feeling – and you can’t help yourself.  Seriously.  Heartfelt, sincere, and never clichéd, Toy Story 3, being a sequel of a sequel, is an incredible surprise resulting in the best movie of the summer (so far) and of the franchise.


Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 2, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; DVD copy; Bonus View (PiP); BD-Live

Disney’s 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation is a striking film; full of vibrant colors and dark tones that simply rock the blu-ray experience.  This transfer is up to the Pixar standard established so famously by the quality of Wall-E and Up.  Every bit of detail is here.  In a word: AMAZING.  The audio is also a powerful experience for the auditory senses.  Presented in a bone-crunching DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, Toy Story 3 is definitely not child’s play; this will threaten to DESTROY your speakers.  Yes, you will feel and hear every moment of this blu-ray gem.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Located on Disc Two, this feature-length commentary, provided by director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson, is a perfect picture-in-picture experience.  Full of storyboards and concept art, the commentary is a visual treat for any fan of animation done at the level Pixar strives for.  Overall, this commentary is very informative and very much worth your time.

The second commentary, also found on Disc Two, is provided by supervising animator Bobby Podesta, supervising technical director Guido Quaroni, production designer Bob Pauley, supervising animator Mike Venturini and story supervisor Jason Katz.  This one is for solely for fans of animation solely.  For the average viewer, this is a pretty dry experience and much more focused on the computer rendering of the characters.

Special Features:

Hey, kids!!  Hungry for featurettes at all?  This set is loaded with a TON of shorts all concerned with widening the Toy Story experience.  From its animation to its design, Toy Story 3 takes the cake for being one of the most thorough blu-ray experiences ever.  Disney, this time, decides to group all the featurettes into larger categories that can be accessed at random times or watched all at once, whatever the viewer’s preference is, most, however, are lengthy excursions.

They are as follows:

  • "Film Fans" Featurettes (41 mins)
  • "Family Play" Features (33 mins)
  • Publicity Goodies (27 mins)
  • Day & Night Theatrical Short (6 mins)
  • Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure (5 mins)
  • Toys! (7 mins)

BD-Live Functionality

The set also comes with tools to “Maximize Your Home Theater” and some “Sneak Peeks” at the forthcoming The Incredibles blu-ray release.

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