Remember what I said a few months ago about the three phases of Pixar’s history, and how this newest sequel-filled phase seems to represent a retreat of sorts from the artistic ambitions of the second phase?
Andy outgrows his anthropomorphic amigos Buzz and Woody in “Toy Story 3,” the franchise’s third (and final?) installment — and as it turns out, 15 years after launching the computer-animated toon revolution, Pixar has outgrown them, too. Whereas “Toy Story 2” treated auds to a character-based sequel that handily justified its existence, this tertiary adventure delivers welcome yet nonessential fun, landing well after its creators have grown up and succeeded toying with more sophisticated stories. . . .
Pixar has essentially set an impossible standard for itself, having previously delivered the rare sequel that improves on the original, then followed that up with a run of exceptional work. This latest script, written by “Little Miss Sunshine‘s” Michael Arndt from a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Unkrich, feels more gag-driven than the studio’s previous efforts — essentially borrowing a page from DreamWorks Animation, chasing snappy humor over heart-on-their-sleeve sentimentality, within a few months of DreamWorks going the Pixar route with the sincere storytelling of “How to Train Your Dragon.” . . .
UPDATE: Steven D. Greydanus also links to Debruge’s review, and puts Toy Story 3 within the broader context of what seems likely to be a rather lacklustre summer, as far as family films go (“It might be second-string Pixar, but given Pixar’s overall track record of excellence even second-string Pixar is likely to equal, and probably to surpass, the very best the competition has to offer”).