The Toy Story saga comes full circle with Disney & Pixar’s third installment of the tale that follows toys that have a life of their own. When it first came out 15 years ago, Toy Story was a landmark of its time. Now, CGI technology is even more groundbreaking, and the film is produced in subtle yet effective 3D. (There are mixed feelings in the critic’s circle about use of 3D in films — it’s becoming a money-drawing trend and can tend to distract from a film in some cases.) No matter–Toy Story 3 is an animated masterpiece.
We rejoin our old friends Woody and Buzz Lightyear and the gang of Andy’s other toys, including Rex, Hamm, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, and Slinky the dog. Jessie and Bulls Eye are part of the group now, following their introduction in Toy Story 2 where they narrowly escape living an “immortal” toy’s life in a Japanese museum. The Toy Story movies speak to such a wide audience, thanks to not only the colorful characters and lively dialogue, but also the consistent presence of meaningful themes. The toys continue to struggle as they watch Andy grow up and not play with them anymore. Tucked away in a dusty toybox, the toys reminisce of the days when they were played with. The movie’s epic opening scene is both a shout-out to Hollywood’s blockbuster movie mentality and “more is more” philosophy, which turns out to be an enchanting memory of Andy’s childhood playtime.
Alas, Andy is growing up, as all children do, and is headed to college any day. Faced with the task of sorting through his belongings, the fate of the toys becomes uncertain as they are mistakenly taken to the curb–when Andy intended to store them in the garage. Woody is separated from the group, as Andy elected to take him along to college. The toys are devastated because they think they’ve been thrown away, and thus begins a delightful and non-stop adventure.
The gang winds up at Sunnyside Daycare, where promise abounds: The dilemma of the child growing up and outgrowing the toys no longer applies. There is a constant cycle of fresh faces and happy hands overjoyed to play with the toys. Or so it seems. The happy fantasy is thwarted when a certain strawberry scented bear, Lotso, manipulates the situation and forces the toys into the cruel hands of the tots in the “Caterpillar room.” The toys seek escape and try to make their way back to Andy’s house. Notable moments of hilarity: A scene in Ken’s Dream House where he models some of his sequined duds for Barbie, and Mr. Potato Head’s incarnation as a flatbread. I won’t spoil the ending, but be prepared to get misty-eyed at the end, at the very least. Toy Story 3 is a perfect film. It connects with a mass audience, reminding us all of what it was like to be a child. It is bittersweet and thoughtful, as much for grown-ups as it is for kids. (To think I wrote it off as a mere “kid’s movie!”) Overall: Charming, cleanly funny and engaging. A must-see for all.