While I have not always been the biggest fan of animated films, I will admit that Pixar has an undeniable track record. My personal favourite would have to be Finding Nemo (2003), but Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999) are next in line. Adding a second sequel has often been detrimental to a critically lauded franchise - look at Shrek the Third (2007) and The Godfather Part III (1990). The problem with Shrek was overexposure - four films in nine years, and the third Godfather was tainted by Sophia Coppola's lack of acting talent. Toy Story 3, released eleven years after Toy Story 2, is a fantastically crafted film with great focus and direction and it is a perfect ending for the endearing toys, even though it may not hold the same sentimental value for young kids today. The film begins with the toys' owner Andy preparing to leave for college. Many toys featured in the first two films have been sold, lost or discarded. Luckily most of our favourites have survived, including Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), the Potato Heads (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) and my personal favourite Rex (Wallace Shawn). New voice actors include Michael Keaton (as Ken) and Ned Beatty (Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear). Toy Story 3 is darker and more mature than the first two films but never loses the recurring themes of loyalty and friendship. It was an incredible film-going experience, made better by the exceptional short Day & Night before the film, and the absence of advertisements before the coming attractions.
Andy is leaving for college and his mom has told him to clear out his room. All his old toys, which he has not played with for years, must either be put in the attic, in the trash, or in a donation box for Sunnyside Daycare. Andy chooses to take Woody to college with him and puts the others in a trash bag destined for the attic. In an unfortunate series of events the bag ends up on the curb and after narrowly escaping the garbage truck the toys hide in a box in Andy's mom's car headed to Sunnyside. The toys believe that Andy wanted to put them in the trash and refuse to listen to Woody's protestations. They are warmly greeted by Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear at daycare and are overcome with joy at the chance to be played with. Woody attempts to escape but is found by a girl named Bonnie, who takes him home. The others find that Sunnyside is run by Lots-O' like a prison and they are placed in the Caterpillar room, a room for kids too young and rambunctious for them. Lots-O' and his gang police the daycare at night and reset Buzz, which results in him imprisoning his friends. At Bonnie's Woody is told of the horrors at Sunnyside and returns the next day in Bonnie's backpack to help his friends escape. The toys concoct a wild prison escape that is wickedly funny. The film is not about whether or not the toys are able to escape Sunnyside Daycare but where they will end up after coming to terms with Andy's impending journey to college.
The opening and closing scenes of the film are heartbreaking and beautiful. The first scene reminds you of the imagination of youth while the end of the film shows the growth and maturity of a young man. It would be devastating if Pixar were to produce a fourth installment of Toy Story because this third film was a wonderful and emotionally satisfying conclusion. The toys have retained all of their charm and even some of Woody's annoying habits are less pronounced (but this could entirely be due to my dislike to Tom Hanks). My only complaint would be that the new toys' characters are not as well developed as the old favourites. Roger Ebert complained that the lack of human involvement in the film (the toys were not fighting to return to Andy but instead were fighting a group of evil toys) and that this absence hurts the film. I disagree. Andy may be seventeen and he may have outgrown the toys of his youth but they will always hold a special place in his heart and he never intended to dispose of them. As adults we may look around our bedrooms and notice that there are very few toys, but we know where they are and the memories they will continue to hold. Toy Story 3 knows that and the entire Toy Story franchise has always understood the importance of our toys.
My rating: 4 stars out of 4.