Fourteen years after the original Toy Story—the film that started animation-behemoth Pixar Studios—and a decade after its sequel, both have returned to theaters, this time mashed together as a double feature and gussied up in 3-D. Most likely a no-brainer for Pixar aficionados and those in search of well-meaning family entertainment, the question remains if this new double feature—intended to promote next summer’s Toy Story 3—is worth the 3-D surcharge and the three eye-straining hours of your life.
Nothing about the actual movies has changed. It’s still the same adventures of a group of toys—led by a pull-string cowboy named Woody (Tom Hanks) and plastic spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen)—based on the simple conceit that children’s playthings come alive when people aren’t looking. As a premise it works well, assuming you can buy into the film’s warmed-over whimsy, complete with gooey Randy Newman songs.
It’s interesting to see how Pixar itself has evolved. Both Toy Story films are very much movies for kids with the occasional nod to the adults in the audience via a pop-culture reference (though in a much more subdued manner than would be popularized later on in Shrek (2001)). Today, Pixar is still making kids movies, but with films like Wall-E (2008) and this year’s Up, which trade in adult themes. This makes a huge difference and causes both Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2—which both fall a bit on the heart-warming, sappy side—to feel a bit slight.
As far as the 3-D effects go, like the now annual three-dimensional reissue of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), it’s more about depth than things popping out from the screen. This serves the sequel better, since four years of technological advancement makes for a better-looking movie, not to mention an opening sequence that looks like it was custom tailored for 3-D. The original, on the other hand, doesn’t hold up as well, especially when compared to Pixar’s more recent work, but that’s to be expected from a decade-and-a-half-old animated movie. That still doesn’t keep the human characters from looking downright creepy.
But in the end, any movie is helped by being on the big screen, and these two are no different. If you’re looking for fun, solid family moviegoing, you could certainly do worse, assuming you can handle the grind of a double feature. Rated G