Thanks to Tom Berger for another animated movie review!
Toy Story 3 finishes off the franchise that was started 15 years ago by Pixar's first feature length film, Toy Story. It's an unsurprisingly fitting end to a great series of films, maintaining all of the charm, humour and heart of the previous two films while illustrating what 15 years of evolution can do to CG animation.
The film finds the human star of the series, the not-so-young-anymore Andy, getting ready to pack up for college. Asked to figure what to do with his now long neglected toys Woody and Buzz (voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, respectively) so his younger sister can inherit his bedroom, Andy decides to take Woody along to college, consigning the rest of the maudlin, worried crew to the attic. A misunderstanding by Andy's mom finds the toys on the curb, waiting for the garbage truck. After a narrow escape, the toys manage to get themselves donated to Sunnyside Daycare, where they can finally be played with and appreciated again. Shortly after arrival, they meet the grizzled toy patriarch of the daycare, Lots-O-Huggin Bear (Lotso, voiced by the very good Ned Beatty), who ensures them that their years of neglect are behind them and they can look forward to a lifetime of joy and attention thanks to an ever changing line-up of toddlers.
It becomes quickly clear, however that life at Sunnyside isn't quite as bright as the picture painted, and the toys are now left to hatch an escape plan from the tyranny of Lotso's reign.
The story is gripping and suspenseful, the action is dynamic and exciting (including an amazing Barrel-O-Monkeys nuclear explosion), and the humour, as always, is top notch. There's a formula here, not a complex one but consistent none the less: a little danger, a little emotion, and a laugh every minute-and-a-half, no matter what. Of particular note is Buzz Lightyear set to the Spanish default, and the sexually ambiguous Ken doll strutting his stuff for Barbie in a wide variety of vintage fashions.
The film plays to its strength: its characters and its witty, moving script, and in doing so boils up an engaging story rich with legitimately bitter-sweet themes of separation, loss and transition. Close to home for anyone that has ever outgrown a childhood toy, the film manages to make what might be a modern retelling of "The Velveteen Rabbit" sweet and funny while, true to Pixar form, striking a heartfelt nerve. It's not just a great piece of animated storytelling, it's a great film, bar no qualifiers what-so-ever.
Noteworthy as well is the opening Pixar short, Night and Day. It's a remarkable innovative piece, and an inspired hybrid of classical 2D with 3D animation that almost defies description. In fact, the short was such an unexpected joy, I encourage you to watch it knowing as little about it as you can. My favourite Pixar short by a landslide.