Pixar has done pretty well for itself over the last 15 years. The studio has yet to release a film that failed to hit the $360 million mark. “Finding Nemo,” the company’s top box-office earner, ended its theatrical run with $868 million in ticket sales. Pixar’s most recent offering, “Up,” didn’t fare too badly either, soaring to a $723 million gross last year.
Given such financial triumphs, the anticipated box-office performance of “Toy Story 3,” which arrived on Friday (June 18), is nothing short of staggering. Early tracking and pre-sales suggest the third adventure of Woody and his pals will enjoy Pixar’s biggest opening ever, raking in as much as $100 million over the weekend. Thanks, premium 3-D ticket prices!
Yet B.O. bucks aside, the question remains: Is the flick any good? Is this third installment of the franchise — which finds Woody, Buzz and the gang stranded at a wacky day care center, where they struggle to find Andy, their longtime owner, before he heads off to college — worth your hard-earned cash? The answer, according to critics, is a resounding, “Yes!”
” ’Toy Story 3′ is as sweet, as touching, as humane a movie as you are likely to see this summer, and yet it is all about doodads stamped and molded out of plastic and polyester,” wrote A.O. Scott of The New York Times. “Therein lies its genius, and its uncanny authenticity. A tale that captured the romance and pathos of the consumer economy, the sorrows and pleasures that dwell at the heart of our materialist way of life, could only be told from the standpoint of the commodities themselves, those accretions of synthetic substance and alienated labor we somehow endow with souls.”
That’s some high praise, and Scott is not alone. Some reviewers are even convinced that “Toy Story 3″ is Pixar’s finest recent effort, better even than “Up,” which nabbed a Best Picture Oscar nomination. ” ’Toy Story 3′ is a better film than ’WALL-E’ and ’Up’ in that it succeeds completely in conventional terms,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle said. “For 103 minutes, it never takes audience interest for granted. It has action, horror and vivid characters, and it always keeps moving forward.”
Speaking of those vivid characters, the film introduces us to some memorable new toys. “The movie has delirious fun with Big Baby, a damaged infant doll who’s a rubbery, droopy-eyed zombie,” wrote Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman. “And then there’s Ken — yes, the Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton, having a ball), who’s a different sort of zombie, a polyester-brained dandy who lives in a dollhouse and wishes that it were still hip to be square. Like every other toy in the film, he comes with his own hilariously specific mental universe.”
And what of the flick’s CGI animation and 3-D effects? Everyone seems to agree that “Toy Story 3″ looks stunning.
“Pixar’s animation skills have improved massively since ’Toy Story 2,’ ” Katey Rich wrote on CinemaBlend.com. “And the 3-D only enhances the rich texture of [pink plush bear] Lotso’s fur or Ken’s flashy clothes; the ’Toy Story’ movies have always thrilled us by giving us a new perspective on our own world, and the 3-D adds to that immersion in all the little details only Woody or [toy dinosaur] Rex would see. The movie is heavy on action sequences and executes each flawlessly, providing the sense of space and high stakes that few live-action films ever accomplish. Director Lee Unkrich, inheriting duties from John Lasseter, has a crack sense of timing, and even when the story strays a little Unkrich moves the story forward persistently without ever seeming rushed.”
We’ll give the final word to Dana Stevens of Slate: ” ’Toy Story 3′ is a near-perfect piece of popular entertainment, a children’s classic that will be watched and loved when my daughter’s (and one day, her daughter’s) now-beloved toys are gathering dust in a basement. Sh– — now I’m crying again.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Toy Story 3.”
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