When writing about the animation powerhouse that is Pixar, the tendency is to wax poetic about their unmatched ability to creatively do no wrong. It’s easy to focus on the fact that since the original Toy Story was released in 1995, each subsequent film they have produced has been a diverse and fantastic work of pop storytelling.
With good reason. Everyone loves Pixar because their films are fantastic, and their latest is just another example of pure, genuine excellence. Toy Story 3 can comfortably be added to the list of near-flawless family-friendly entertainment, bringing their streak to an unprecedented eleven brilliant films in a row.
The new Story finds Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the usual crew of lovable misfits stuffed in a toy box awaiting their fate. Their owner, Andy (John Morris), is now seventeen and heading off to college soon, leaving the neglected toys with only a future of collecting dust in the attic.
When the toys are inadvertently donated to a nearby daycare center, they first consider it a dream come true. Imagine getting played with everyday! But when the daycare’s resident toys, lead by the strawberry-scented teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty), begin to show their true colors, the situation becomes dire. Woody and Buzz are forced to fight their way out and find the way back to Andy before he is lost forever.
The most impressive aspect of Toy Story 3 is its ability to feel like an extension of the original and not merely a sequel that exists for the sake of profit. Unlike the last two Shrek movies, this chapter feels natural and justified, playing as if it’s just another day in the life of these characters. This third film especially benefits from the eleven years that separate it from the second in the series. The world feels fresh again and revisiting these familiar faces comes with a sense of nostalgia that only adds to the excitement the movie delivers.
Hanks and Allen still have great chemistry together and the new characters bring plenty of laughter. Lotso the Bear is a marvelous villain and Beatty’s voice is nearly unrecognizable in the role. Barbie finally meets her Ken (Michael Keaton), who brings a keen fashion sense and a huge portion of the film’s laugh out loud moments.
The film is essentially a rescue/escape movie and director Lee Unkrich does a masterful job at continually raising the stakes and mounting the tension as the film progresses towards the exhilarating and heartwarming finale. Toy Story 3 also brings a degree of closure to the characters, and anyone who doesn’t get a least a little choked up at the end of this film has no heart. It’s that simple. If you don’t cry like a baby by the time the credits roll, you have no heart.
4.5 out of 5