Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 | Animated Comedy | rated G | starring voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Wallace Shawn, Michael Keaton, Ned Beaty | 1:43 mins

10 years after the events of Toy Story 2, Andy is all grown up and about to head off to college. Feeling abandoned and alone by their owner Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie, Rex, Slinky Dog, Mr. & Mrs Potato Head now face the reality of either being thrown away or boxed up in the attic forever. The group sneaks a ride in the donation box to Sunnyside Daycare against the protests of Woody (Tom Hanks) who insists they get back to be there for Andy. At first Sunnyside appears to be the heaven of child love they’ve been waiting for, but soon it becomes a prison of twisted toy horrors.

When you try to follow up a hit movie with a sequel you might get lucky the 2nd time, but as Saw, The Matrix or Spider-Man will tell you, by the third in almost as many years you’re pretty much at the bottom of the creativity barrel. Pixar answers this sequel fatigue with a solid decade between Toy Story movies and approaches the third entry to the series with a Do it Right or Not At All attitude. Toy Story 3 is the benchmark of how to make a successful second sequel, building off of the first two beautifully and using the passage of time to present us with some delightful and hilarious changes to the universe they created over 15 years ago.

Back in 1999 Toy Story 2 knocked me out. Aside from elevating the adventure to thrilling chases and narrow-escapes better than most live-action action movies, it was the first time I felt like a family film didn’t have the usual “love your parents”, “love your friends”, “love the environment” message. The phrase “to infinity and beyond” was morphed into a metaphor about the curse of immortality as Pixar delved into the logic of their universe: if their Toy Story toys are alive, then they also cannot die. It was a parable about the feelings of loss and even uselessness a parent may feel for a child leaving the nest and no longer needing them. The toys would live on, but for what without the love of their owner? Toy Story 3 brings the fear Woody, Buzz and the gang had in 2 to a reality. The day has come. When we first see them they are reduced to stealing Andy’s cell phone just to get him to look at them. Now discarded they face the possibility of an eternity either without their owner or being shuffled around to new generations of children. Their desperate desire to be “played with” is palpable.

Yet, this is the funniest Pixar movie to date. An invigorating change from their last few films, Wall-E and Up, that were barren, dramatic and solem by comparison. It’s jokes are not adult or child but classically timelessly clever. Pixar’s endless imagination is less loose on Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Barbie and Ken (Michael Keaton, stealing the show as fashionista Ken) and in particular Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head – the logic of their detachable part existance is played with to the nth degree here. The toy world mirrors ours in quick-witted parodies, from a backroom roulette game played in a vending machine to an instruction manual torture session to a day care turned into a fortress patrolled by remote control cars. A sequence where a group of infants have their way with the toys is hilarious. Surprises bound around every corner. This is a big, busy movie packed with returning and new toys alike. Each of these characters are well attended to, with their own storylines and motivations, with Woody remaining the heart and soul of the series.

Toy Story 3 becomes a prison escape movie in it’s 2nd half where it once again is able to evoke thrills as the toys are thrown into situations that up the ante and now do threaten their existence.  The screw gets wound pretty tight here to the point where we know they must get out of their predicament but really can’t imagine how. One way or another, there is an intensely moving sense of finality to the film. On top of it the lifelike animation brings to life kid characters who really act like kids – instead of precocious movie kids.

Another masterpiece in writing and production from Pixar, who proves with an unheard of amount of consistency why they are the best storytellers in the business today. Toy Story 3 is a witty delight of a comedy, a wonderful return of much loved characters and a most ingenious romp through childhood imagination. Nobody has ever put on film with such honest accuracy the pure imagination of a child the way Toy Story has. It is quite awesome.

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