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The Nearly Eleven Year Wait For TOY STORY 3 Is Worth It, Says The Enemy!!!

Hey there, people... An infinite number of words could describe this movie, but in simplest terms I think "fulfilling" works best. There are only a hand full of things I can legitimately say, "I've been waiting my whole life for," and this film is one them. Back in 1999, I was five years old and sat outside a theatre with my father for two hours (in forty degree weather) to see the second film in the TOY STORY series. As an impatient child, I wanted my TOY STORY right then and there and constantly nagged dad about when we could get seated. Yet waiting there, freezing my ass off, somehow made my appreciation of the film greater after watching it. Not only did I feel like I'd earned it - it delivered. Fast forward to 2010. I'm now sixteen ("Merrick's 16 Year Old Son") and that TS2 experience is still one of my fondest memories. When recalling my early years, I now realize a great amount of time and energy was spent on TOY STORY - making it a Holy Grail of my childhood. I went into TOY STORY 3 with high hopes and expectations, but also many natural apprehensions. Would this one deliver? Every Pixar feature opens with a new short - the short for this film is called "Day & Night." This is probably the company's most badass short to date; it'll leave your jaw dropped and it's enjoyable for kids and adults alike. Describing the thing is pretty hard, but it's funny, interesting, and has a strong message at the end. It's essentially two transparent characters cut into a solid black backdrop. You see different and changing worlds inside of both of them, perspectives switching as they move, interact, and begin to understand each other. Crazy sounding? I know. It's one of those things you have to see for yourself. Here's a fast YouTube clip so you can glimpse what I'm talking about.

When viewing TOY STORY 3 itself, you'll immediately notice this film was created and constructed with extreme TLC - not surprising given the people who are making it. Though I have a strong distaste for 3-D, in this particular case seeing the movie in 3-D is probably worth that few extra dollars. If an IMAX theatre is located in your area, and showing the film in IMAX 3-D, I highly suggest seeing it there. The presentation here is sharp, rich, immersive, and pretty amazing. Before the movie started, I wondered if it was going to be as depressing as the beginning of UP. The answer: yes. Within the first ten minutes of TS3, a sadder, darker tone prevails - brilliantly displaying complex and awkward ideas like growing up, finding one's purpose, and moving on in life. Often this tone threatens to pull a few tears out of you, and sometimes it does. Although subtle jokes, smart writing, and occasional happy moments lighten things up, there's still an overall dark atmosphere here. This is more like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of TOY STORY movies. Previous films in the series were bright and colorful, but TS3 is a much harder, grungier looking movie for a majority of its running time - making it a less optimistic, idealized world for the toys (and us viewers). The upshot of this is a more mature vibe than many might be expecting, but it's darker style brings with it astonishing photography for an animated movie - there's some uncomfortable beauty here.
MINOR SET-UP SPOILERS HERE
The movie starts with an imaginary scenario (in Andy's mind) which re-introduces us to most of the TS characters. This transitions into the camera viewfinder of Andy's (still single?) mom - and a very changed world in which toys being played with is a distant memory, and Andy leaving for college is coming up fast. Here we learn that some characters have been re-homed over the years, and that the remaining toys are waiting to have their fates determined by departing Andy and his cleaning-happy mother. Reluctantly, Andy chooses which toys stay, and which ones go. An easy mistake or two later, the toys Andy holds onto (our hero toys) are accidentally banished to Sunnyside Daycare - essentially a toy prison. From here, like the earlier TSs, they have to find their way home. But in those films, the toys knew they were wanted, and would be missed. Here, even if they manage to get home, the best fate for most of them is that they'll end up in Andy's attic, to be played with again some day many years down the line. Maybe. See? It's dark. And, before the film's final, emotionally charged scene, the toy's personal Hell will become much more literal. At Sunnyside, an angry and abandoned toy named Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear leads an elite group of evil toys. They've essentially conquered the toys that lived there before their arrival, and now rule over them like the mob. Lots-O decides which toys are assigned to what rooms in the facility - meaning once beloved toys are usually sent into the hands of infants where they barely survive the harsh treatment of the kids in the center. A little girl from Sunnyside, named Bonnie, finds Woody as he's trying to return to Andy's house. She takes him home where, we meet her version of Andy's toys. They tell Woody the tragic tale of Lots-O's conquest of Sunnyside, insist that his friends are in danger, compelling the Sheriff to attempt a daring…possibly suicidal…rescue of his the toys he left behind.
END MINOR SPOILERS
For all of the textural changes brought to the table this time around, there are also many familiar story telling aspects held over from the previous TS films; groups going from place to place, settings and characters not being what they initially seem to be, etc. Normally, I wouldn't enjoy watching a predictable story type told over and over again, but the writers here (Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and director Lee Unkrich) find such unique and fresh spins on these ideas that it still feels extremely new, and is usually quite gripping. The ideas of growing up, and recognizing the unstoppable passage of time, make the relationships of these characters very powerful. How they perceive and respond to concepts like fate and destiny are equally powerful. At times you'll wonder if the tasks and challenges they face are beyond them all - and you might even wonder if you'd be up to it yourself. There are plenty of surprising moments in the film, that you haven't seen suggested by trailers or TV spots. This is for the better. You'll be surprised that these sequences were kept under wraps, and may be even more surprised when you feel like you've been punched in the stomach by this movie. The conclusion of TOY STORY 3 is powerful on its own merits, ensuring that the series as a whole will be preserved as a delight beyond compare. As I said above, you may tear up, if not cry like a big baby. You'll leave the theater with vast appreciation for not only what the people at Pixar have accomplished throughout the whole of this series, but the bigger picture of life as well. This is much more than just a story about toys.
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