“Toy Story 2” was the second movie I ever saw in theaters…I was about 8 at the time, and was totally entranced by the adventures of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, and the rest of the memorable gang from Andy’s room. Although a lot of the emotional complexity was lost on me, I could still appreciate that it was more than just another animated kiddie-movie.
Ever since its inception, Pixar has had a knack for crafting brilliantly complex stories with cross-cutting demographic appeal. “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Up”…the list goes on and on. But “Toy Story” has been, perhaps, the most beloved Pixar series of all – a poignant series exploring issues of loss, abandonment, loyalty, and friendship. And “Toy Story 3,” the most recent entry in the franchise, is the outstanding crown jewel of this groundbreaking trilogy.
“Toy Story 3” begins with an action-scene spoof that’s really being played out in Andy’s imagination. It’s a charming introduction to a film that soon takes a surprisingly melancholy turn…Andy’s heading off to college, and the long-neglected toys are searching for some sort of relevance. After a narrow escape from the dreaded trash truck, they end up at the seemingly wonderful Sunnyside Daycare Center, where the strawberry-scented Lots o’ Hugging Bear (Lotso for short) offers them a permanent place to stay.
Unfortunately, Sunnyside turns out to be more of a prison than a paradise. Courageous cowboy Woody takes it upon himself to rescue his friends from Lotso’s sinister scheme – evoking imagery reminiscent of “Mission: Impossible” or “The Great Escape.”
I won’t say any more for fear of giving away plot elements…but suffice it to say that the film takes a series of very unexpected turns that are both unsettling and deeply moving.
I’ll start with the obvious: this is a fairly dark children’s movie. Most of the under-fives who see this movie will not be able to understand the underlying emotional complexity of the film, and thus will be disturbed by some of the scenes in the movie’s final act. Themes of death, sacrifice, and growing up aren’t exactly typical G-movie fare.
And parts of this film are truly heart-wrenching. Few movies have ever touched me as deeply as “Toy Story 3” did in its final moments. For a story about computer-animated toys, it elicits an unbelievable emotional impact. And that’s probably because it addresses such universal issues – a key reason for the series’ enduring popularity among children, teens, and adults alike. Pixar takes a step beyond the stereotypical or predictable “happy ending” by never flinching from the realities of life. In the context of a fantastical film, that’s a difficult balance to strike.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its funny moments, though, because it does. Chief among these is a hilarious sequence in which space ranger Buzz Lightyear’s programming is reset to Spanish, transforming him into a mashup of Space Ranger and Zorro. A couple of new characters (Ken and Barbie) add a comic-romantic element to the series that ends up being immensely amusing (the mild innuendo present in the trailer is, for the most part, absent – the movie relies on clever humor rather than entendres and scatological humor).
Worldview elements are practically nonexistent. This movie is beautiful in its innocent simplicity – while characters behave in a way consistent with Christian principles of love and loyalty, the issue of God is never raised.
So, is it worth seeing?
I’ll admit that at first, it sounded like another little-kid movie. Happily, I was completely mistaken. This is a touching film that strikes a deep chord within the human soul – our need to be loved and accepted, and the pain of moving on to new stages of life. I wouldn’t take a four-year-old to see it, but I found it to be truly outstanding. Definitely one of Pixar’s finest pieces, and absolutely worth watching.
This one’s highly recommended.
A near-flawless blend of humor, excitement, and emotional resonance.
Normalized Score: 7.9