It’s (sigh) Election Day. But cheer up, folks; it’s also “Toy Story Tuesday,” the day that the biggest animated hit ever, Toy Story 3, hits your home theater. So turn that frown upside down and give it up for Buzz and Woody and all their buddies from Pixar.
Synopsis: As I wrote back in July (four months ago already?): “How bad have the summer movies been? So bad that audiences, usually lemmings for any marketing bonanza, have been staying home, depressing the usually robust boxoffice. Leave it to Pixar to get things back on their feet without pandering to the lowest common denominator with Toy Story 3. The digit typically gives me pause but here continues a tradition that bypassed a whole decade and has come back to us none the worse for neglect (only Randy Newman had his eye off the Magic 8-Ball, with a weak theme this time, and the price-boosting 3D is unnecessary if unobtrusive). Forget the two Oscars; Woody, the eternal optimist, is truly Tom Hanks’ signature role, and Michael Keaton revives his intermittent career with his hilarious Ken, the epitome of metrosexuality. The movie that saved summer is one of the year’s best.”
And it still is, too. Even (or perhaps even more) in two dimensions this second sequel is a winner. Everything clicks, and my mild impatience with the score evaporated when I watched the DVD (I needed something to nitpick as I fiddled with my 3D glasses.) Big laughs, some tears, and hugs with the kids when it’s over…that is, if the younger viewers don’t insist that you play it again, and again, and again. Special kudos to Ned Beatty, never more cuddly–or terrifying, in a G-rated, Toy Story way–as the scheming Lotso the bear. It’s hard to believe that this was his first animated character.
Audio/Video: I have a modest and forgiving home theater set-up, and hope once again that this year Santa Giles will see fit to bring a full-fledged Blu-ray bells-and-whistles system down the chimney with him. (Last year I got some horrible Christmas CD and a lump of coal.) That said Toy Story 3 is state-of-the-art all the way, with a shimmering anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1 aspect ratio) and souped-up Dolby Digital and DTS audio options that I can only read about. Please write to the editor to rectify this situation…and rest assured that Disney, as with all its Pixar gems, hasn’t skimped on the home version.
Special Features: These I can tell you about…sort of. The four-disc Combo Pack release clearly favors the two Blu-rays (one mostly for the film and one for the lion’s share of the supplements), with just a handful of extras on the lowly, sand-kicked-in-its-face DVD. Nothing is exclusive to the DVD, humph, which, while wholly professional, feels like something left on the floor at Sunnyside Day Care.
We get: An affectionate, informative commentary by director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson, with cast anecdotes, effects know-how (humans are now easier to render photorealistically than they were in the 90s), and tidbits like how a specific Stanley Kubrick camera move influenced the filmmaking; the pointedly funny short Day & Night, as seen in theaters; “Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure,” an “edutainment” produced in conjunction with NASA; a featurette about Pixar’s editing team; and some animated shorts that provide lightly amusing looks at life at Pixar. My favorite is “The Gang’s All Here,” with footage of Hanks and company in the studio. The actors perform separately, only see their own pages, and never meet during filming, but life goes on: the late Jim Varney, who played Slinky Dog, has been seamlessly revoiced by Blake Clark, while child actor John Morris, the voice of Andy since 1995, had aged naturally into his college-bound portrayal, bringing the series full circle.
The Blu-ray elite get more of Unkrich and Anderson via the Cine-Explore feature, an interactive game, an alternative commentary track, and he proverbial “much more.” I hope you’re happy.
Bottom Line: DVD resentment aside Toy Story 3 brings home one of the finest film trilogies ever. My advice: if you don’t have the other two on DVD, and have or plan to have (right, boss?) a Blu-ray player, spring for the Toy Story Trilogy Combo Box that was also released today. No home theater toybox is complete without it.