DVD Tuesday: ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘White Christmas’

by W. Andrew Powell

The gang of friends from Toy Story 3

The gang of friends from Toy Story 3

New this week on Blu-ray and DVD: Tom Hanks ad Tim Allen return to their beloved roles in the Pixar animated adventure Toy Story 3; plus a look at three new re-releases on Blu-ray.

Toy Story 3
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles
Director: Lee Unkrich

Rated: 9/10

Quick, name the last decent Disney sequel that didn’t go directly to DVD. If you’re coming up blank, it’s probably because there are hardly any worth naming, aside from Fantasia 2000.

Pixar on the other hand seems to have no problem with sequels, at least if you take Toy Story 2 and now Toy Story 3 as any indication. The epic film company has made a name for itself as one of the most reliable film studios of the last twenty years, and their latest movie just proves they can deliver a solid sequel for their parent company, even when it’s perhaps not altogether necessary.

Toy Story 3 revisits the gang, including Woody, Buzz, and Hamm, as their owner Andy is about to head off to college.

Sitting in their toy chest, the gang is getting a little worried because Andy never plays with them anymore, and they expect that once he leaves, they’ll end up either in the attic, gathering dust, or even worse, in the garbage.

Picking Woody out to take with him to college, Andy decides to put all of the toys in the attic, but thanks to a mix-up the toys almost end up in a trash can. Not realizing that Andy meant to keep them, the toys unanimously decide to put themselves in a box destined for donation to a local pre-school where they hope they might actually find children who want to play with them again.

Little do the toys realize though that they’re headed for a prison-like new home ruled over by the pink teddy bear Lotso, voiced by Ned Beatty, and his gang of plastic cohorts. When Woody stumbles on the truth, it will be up to him to break in and save his friends before Andy heads off to college.

Thanks to the wonderful voice performances by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, as Woody and Buzz, not to mention the entire cast which also includes Michael Keaton as the hilariously effeminate Ken doll, Toy Story 3 is a magical film. Pixar has once again created something truly special for this film, avoiding all the possible gimmicks that might have wrecked the heart-felt story.

Pixar breathes complete life into these characters, making every single toy and person matter, right down to the characters who only appear for a few moments. They also manage to make the film, which could have been a throwaway at best, moving, action-packed, funny, and heart-wrenching. They push your buttons throughout the film, but never in a way that feels contrived as much as it just feels like art imitating real life.

The first half of the film is admittedly a slow build, but it happily doesn’t drag anywhere, and the second half of the movie absolutely flies. All of that setup is tantamount to riding a rollercoaster that has to climb the hill before it can take off, a process that’s necessary, but the whole story process honestly doesn’t seem quite as effortless as we’ve seen in previous Pixar films.

Thanks to all of that setup, the film ends perfectly though, climaxing with a powerful scene that might be considered a little intense for some children, but still felt right to me. When I screened the film in theatres, there were also very few dry eyes in the house thanks to the moving finale that left me, and probably most of the adults in the audience, remembering some of their favorite childhood toys.

Toy Story 3 blew me away and left me wanting more. Even while I’m rating it near-perfect, I can’t help but feel like this was obviously an unnecessary sequel perpetrated by Disney for dollar signs.

Notable Special Editions on Blu-ray…

The top two re-releases on Blu-ray this week have to be The Sound of Music, which celebrates its 45th anniversary, and the eighties classic Goonies, which marks its 25th anniversary. While I haven’t reviewed either title on Blu-ray yet, the films both come packed with extras and goodies, and if you’re not a fan, they’ll make great gifts over the coming holiday season.

Speaking of the holidays, the other big release this week is the enduring musical classic, White Christmas. Originally released in 1954, and starring the legendary Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney, the film is pretty much a must-watch for me every year, and that’s in no small part due to the music of composer Irving Berlin which has been remastered on this release to 5.1 DTS.

The special edition of the release includes a lot of wonderful, nostalgic extras, most of which are in HD. These extras include a sweet commentary track by Rosemary Clooney, backstage stories, retrospectives on Crosby and Kaye, and a lot more.

I have a lot of favorites around the holidays, but I consider White Christmas a must-own for anyone who loves this season, and this Blu-ray package presents it in all its glory, revitalized for the big screen treatment at home.

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