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Toy Story 3 (Theatrical Review)

4 Jul, 2010 By: John Latchem

Toy Story 3

Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger.

In 1995 Pixar set a new standard in animation with Toy Story. While other CG-animated movies have since tried to capture some of that magic, Toy Story 3 demonstrates just how far ahead in the game Pixar is. This is a wonderful movie that works on every level.

What a tragic existence it is to be a toy. Designed to be little more than a disposable plaything, toys are abused and broken at the whim of those who play with them, sometimes lost and casually replaced, only to be abandoned when the children grow up. But oh what joy those childhood years bring.

The “Toy Story” movies have never been shy about using toys as a metaphor for love and loss, and Toy Story 3 pushes the concept even further, culminating in a beautiful final scene that encapsulates everything we love about these movies. They capture the fleeting nature of childhood so perfectly and give every member of the audience, young and old, something to latch on to.

Toy Story 3 really zeroes in on the idea of the role toys play in a child’s life. It begins with a wonderfully wacky scene that could only come from a child’s imagination. We are reintroduced to Andy, the kid from the first two movies who dearly loves Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of his little collection of toys. But as the years go by and Andy prepares for college, the toys end up sitting in their toy chest wishing for someone to play with them.

With this set-up, the film begins to improve upon themes laid down in the second movie, which touched on the idea that when children grow up, toys lose their purpose. Some toys might achieve a second life as a collector’s item, but that really isn’t what toys are for. Toys are supposed to be played with.

Andy plans to take Woody to college and put his other toys in the attic for storage. While they will be protected and together, they might as well be in a museum. A mix-up sends the toys to a local daycare center, where the toys are overjoyed at the idea of being played with again. But Woody knows the truth, that Andy still wants them, and sets off on the long journey back.

To leave the daycare center, however, they must get past the oppressive lockdown of Lotso, a huggable teddy bear with a tragic past that has given him a jaded view of toy owners. He wants the new toys to be tortured by the younger children so his preferred toys don’t have to be.

This leads to some of the darkest scenes one might expect from an animated movie, but also some of the best. There are scenes in Toy Story 3 that are the equal to any conventional comedy or drama. In one ingenious sequence that can only have evolved from a movie such as this, Mr. Potato Head finds himself unable to connect his parts to his potato body, and thus is forced to improvise, leading to one of the most bizarre and hilarious sights you will find in cinema.

The animation is breathtaking in how it expertly captures all the little textures of the different toys that appear. Remember how Woody’s arm was torn off in the second movie, and later re-attached? His new stitches are still visible. Little details like this are only one reason Pixar’s movies are so beloved.

This is a trilogy that has earned the heartwarming poignancy of its coda, and if this is truly the final chapter of “Toy Story,” then it goes out on a high note indeed. Like the toys they portray, these are films that are meant to be cherished forever.

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