Toy Story 3 (2010)

In 1995 and 1999, Toy Story and its sequel made huge impacts on the world of feature-length animations, combining stunning visuals, solid stories and unforgettable characters – all in the relatively new field of computer animation. It’s been 11 years since we last followed Woody and Buzz. In that time, CGI has become ubiquitous and the Academy Awards have created the “Best Animated Feature” category.

Despite the age of its source material, Toy Story 3 stands up to both its predecessors and its contemporary competition. This is an excellent movie in every way.

The original principal cast all return. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen lead the ensemble, comfortably reprising their roles of Woody and Buzz. New characters include an old timey strawberry-scented bear named Lotso Hugs, voiced by Ned Beatty in perfect form, and a possibly closeted Ken doll voiced by Michael Keaton.

The film starts with a comical action sequence being acted out in a young Andy’s mind. With the transition to reality comes the reality of aging, as camcorder footage fast forwards us to nine years later. Andy is about to leave for college, and he has long stopped playing with his toys, who are desperate for attention.

During packing, the toys accidentally get set out for trash, and the adventure begins. They eventually wind up in the Sunnyside Daycare Center, where Lotso is in charge of all the toys. At first it seems like toy paradise, with the immortal prospect of cycling groups of children to play with them forever. All of the toys except Woody approve and want to stay. Woody would rather go back and sit in Andy’s attic.

This motivation was the only problem I had with the movie. The film seems to be on Woody’s side in suggesting that the best thing for a toy is playless waiting out of loyalty. But then again, what do I know about how toys should be treated? I’m a human being.

In any case, the daycare turns out to be a toy prison with Lotso as its strawberry-scented warden. Woody, having left his friends to get back to Andy, finds out about their peril and goes on a rescue mission.

The rest of the story is very fulfilling and entertaining. It always moves forward and expertly paces its light and heavy scenes. And there are heavy scenes. Toy Story 3 contains the darkest and most emotional themes of the series, appropriate for the maturity of the audience that grew up with Andy. One scene near the end gets surprisingly somber in a moment of fatalist acceptance.

The film is able to retain its humor, however, continuing the balance between heart and laughter that the series has always attained. All of the secondary characters have great moments. Usually as franchises go on, the pantheon of characters expands, but Pixar uniquely decided to scale back its returning players. Now only the core group remains, with even the little green army men defecting early on.

This paucity of characters provides a chance to give each of them a little more screen time. They’re all funny characters with great talent behind them, so I’m grateful that Toy Story 3 is not bloated with too many new characters.

There are some new characters, but many of them receive very little screen time. Luckily, they all make the best of the time they’re given, and are some of the highlights of the film. Timothy Dalton is scene-stealing as a pompous hedgehog toy, and it only made sense when I learned that Kristen Schaal voiced Trixie, another toy dinosaur and a small character that delivered huge laughs. Schaal has always been able to make the most out of tiny parts. I was also pleasantly surprised to find the Spanish Buzz sequence funny; I thought it looked trite in the early teasers, but it plays out with mucho hilarity in the film.

Toy Story 3 has it all. It provides great laughs (two of my favorites both involved monkeys) and a lot of heart. The end of the film is the most touching of all, and provides a perfect cap for the entire series. Pixar has seemingly done the impossible: They’ve created the perfect trilogy. Toy Story 3 is everything you want and expect it to be. It’s just like the first two, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more complimentary comparison.

Final rating: 10/10

–James A. Janisse





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