Toy Story 3 is nothing short of brilliant. Once again Pixar has found the perfect blend of endearing characters and heartfelt story that enables their heroes to transcend merely being “toys”. Don’t be surprised to find yourself fighting back tears during the climactic moments in their journey, laughing aloud at the creativity of the humor, or staring in awe at the scope of the modeling and animation. Not content to simply stuff “adult humor” in between the childish antics like many others of its genre, Toy Story 3 could more accurately be described as a movie for grown-ups cleverly disguised as a kids’ film. Plenty of unique new toys populate the cast, providing an easy visual banquet, while the story explores themes of love, loss, selfishness, selflessness, friendship and governmental dictatorships under fluffy purple strawberry-scented bears. If that doesn’t do it for you, there’s always Michael Keaton’s hysterical impression of Ken and Buzz Lightyear’s equally entertaining Spanish mode. Andy is now 17 and ready to head off to college, leaving Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and the rest of the toy-box gang to ponder their uncertain futures. When the toys are accidentally donated to the Sunnyside Daycare center, they’re initially overjoyed to once again be played with; but their enthusiasm quickly gives way to horror as they discover the true nature of the establishment under the rule of the deceptively welcoming “Lotso” Bear (Ned Beatty). Now, all of the toys must band together in one final, crazy scheme to escape their confines and return home to Andy.
Toy Story 3 is perhaps the most cleverly disguised adult action/adventure drama of all time. As with most of Pixar’s unquestionably superior animated features, the stories are crafted to appeal to both children and adults, without ever insulting either party’s intelligence, patience or mindset. This latest entry follows the same formula, but includes even more significant, adult themes, parodying The Bridge on the River Kwai and confronting ideas of abandonment, heartbreak, imprisonment, torture, betrayal and death. It’s certainly more severe, but surrounded by fun-loving children’s toys, wide-eyed smiles and light-hearted action, the majority of viewers probably won’t recognize any differences. Younger audiences will be just as enthralled by the colorful, funny characters, while the more suspenseful elements will have older crowds anxious for repeat viewings.
The opening scene follows the “playtime” adventures of Buzz, Woody and the gang as they act out large-scale battles and intense showdowns with dastardly villains. In reality, they’re being played with by a small child using plenty of imagination to fill in the gaps when actual locations, modified toys and extensive props aren’t available. It’s particularly interesting to note that the toys possess fantasies of their own, even though they “awake” when humans aren’t around to live “real” lives in-between their make-believe world. This is complicated further when a hierarchy of toys is introduced through Lotso and his totalitarian rule. Politics, factions and a terrifying system of control add to the heavier themes, but Toy Story 3 never forgets to supplement everything with humor – and none of it is cheap. A purely visual tortilla gag takes the cake, and Ken and Barbie’s hilarious dialogue, Chuckles’ cheerless reminiscence, and a cymbal-clanging monkey highlight jokes that garner sincere laughs, through exaggerated character designs, the mocking of nostalgic playthings and perfectly cast voice actors. This third part easily cements the Toy Story franchise as one of the greatest trilogies in movie history.
– The Massie Twins (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com)