Toy Story 3 Review

Pixar has taken the animation genre literally to infinity and beyond in the 15 years since “Toy Story” first changed the game forever. So when the ground-breaking production company decided to return to an old friend in 2010 after three straight years of cutting-edge family film-making, you had to know there was a compelling reason to go back to the toys that wasn’t merely monetary. Normally any movie title with a “3” next to it is a warning sign, but not a Pixar film. “Toy Story 3” is every bit imaginative, ingenious, funny and heartwarming as not only its predecessors but also every other animated film out there.

I don’t cry at movies — ever — but three films in the last three years have pushed my tear ducts to their limits: “WALL*E,” “Up” and now “Toy Story 3.” Sure, the first “Toy Story” came out when I was still playing with toys, so the nostalgia and attachment factor played a part in my love of this movie as it will for many, but on its own, “Toy Story 3” is every bit as intelligent on its own as the Oscar-winning Pixar films of the last two years.

There’s no denying the film is cluttered with too many toys we barely get to know and that certain plot elements (namely that relate to the film’s antagonism) are rushed, but the film stays unwaveringly true to its heart and message as all Pixar films and great family films do. Kids won’t be able to pick up on the toys’ existential contemplation as expressed by their desire to be “played with” and the feeling of loss and rejection at Andy’s going to college, but the humor and physical adventure is right in their wheelhouse.

This final (in all likelihood but not sealed off) story takes the toys to Sunnyside Daycare after they are mistaken for trash when Andy intended them to go in the attic now that he’s moving out. What a perfect locale for introducing new characters and giving the toys an opportunity to finally be played with again. Of course it’s not long before they realize not everything is “sunny” at the daycare as they’ve been relegated to the youngest kids for whom they’re not age appropriate and consequently end up broken and covered in paint. The toys at Sunnyside also have their own chain of authority that begins with Lots-o-Huggin’ bear (Ned Beatty) and includes Ken (Michael Keaton) as well as many others.

Woody (Tom Hanks) finds himself separated from the gang because, like always, no one believes him that Andy didn’t intend to throw them out. After a side venture to a little girl’s house and some more characters like Mr. Pricklepants the thespian hedgehog (Timothy Dalton) and the triceratops Trixie (Kristen Schaal of “Flight of the Conchords”), the daring Woody must return to Sunnyside and rescue his friends.

The elaborate plan to escape Mission Impossible-style from Sunnyside is Pixar writing at its finest and where the movie really earns its points as far as entertainment goes, especially for those unfamiliar with the characters. Like the previous “Toy Story” films, this one also expands the scope to include the big and scary “real world” and has a sense of authentic danger, which was exactly what made the originals so captivating and thrilling.

“Toy Story 3” might not have the thematic power of “WALL*E” and “Up” (and those are exemplary models, so that is not a shot at this movie) but it certainly outdoes both films in terms of action and plot creativity. Now that the comparison has been made between gold and diamonds, it’s time to say that “Toy Story 3” will give anyone who ever loved a toy some kind of closure with regard to that last flame of child left inside.

That and there’s so much darn good in this movie. From sticking together and helping others to the idea of sacrificing something you hold dear so that someone else can get that same joy from it — it’s all part of that special emotion Pixar captures every single time it embarks on a new project. It proves that touching films start with ideas about human truths. Then the geniuses like the brains at Pixar find ways to wrap clever, funny, entertaining, relatable and lovable concepts around them.

4.5/5 Stars

Toy Story 3
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Written by Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Starring: (voices) Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty


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