The Toy Story saga comes full circle with an installment that’s easily as compelling and consistently involving as both Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and it’s clear that Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich and the geniuses at Pixar have managed to once again outdo themselves in terms of the movie’s visuals, vocal performances, and narrative surprises.
Though the film isn’t quite as flawless as its immediate predecessor – there’s nothing here that’s as emotionally devastating as the montage detailing Jessie’s painful past, for example – Toy Story 3 is nevertheless an incredible achievement that stands as a fitting conclusion to an indelible trilogy (yet it’s also worth noting that Unkrich nicely leaves the door open for future sequels, should the demand arise).
The movie also marks the first time the Toy Story universe has been natively rendered in 3-D, and there’s certainly no denying that the eye-popping visuals are often enhanced by the extra dimension. By that same token, however, 3-D remains a novelty that’s often as distracting as it is impressive, as the dark glasses tend to dull the impact of the bright and vibrant landscape that has come to define the Toy Story series. However even an annoyance as minor as those uncomfortable glasses can’t even remotely diminish what is otherwise a staggering piece of work.
It’s been more than a decade since the events of 1999’s Toy Story 2, and Andy (John Morris) is now a teenager who is preparing to go off to college. Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang have been sitting in a chest gathering dust for years, but that all changes when Andy’s mom (Laurie Metcalf) forces Andy to either throw out or donate his toys. After choosing to take Woody to college with him, Andy decides to store the rest of his toys in the attic but he's interrupted on his way to taking them to storage. His mom finds the garbage bag containing the toys in the hall and believing the bag is full of garbage, she hauls it to the curb. The toys, thinking Andy's tossed them out, decide to take matters into their own hands by hitching a ride to Sunnyside Daycare.
Upon arriving, Woody, Buzz, Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Barbie (Jodi Benson), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and Bullseye are introduced to a whole mess of new, welcoming toys – including suave ladies man Ken (Michael Keaton), a rubber octopus named Stretch (Whoopi Goldberg), and Lots-o-Huggin Bear (Ned Beatty), a friendly plush toy that smells like strawberries.
Convinced they’ll be spending the rest of their days being played with, Andy’s toys decide to stay at Sunnyside – although Woody immediately rejects that idea and insists that they all head home. Problems ensue as it becomes increasingly clear that Lotso and his cohorts aren’t quite as easy-going as they appear, which forces Andy’s toys to start planning their escape from the well-guarded daycare center.
The Voice Cast
Has there ever been an animated series as perfectly cast as the Toy Story trilogy? Right from the first movie, it’s been impossible to envision anyone other than Tom Hanks and Tim Allen tackling the voices of Woody and Buzz. Pixar’s impressive knack for pairing just the right actors with the various characters continues this time around, as the newcomers to the Toy Story franchise effortlessly live up to the almost impossibly high standard set by Hanks, Allen, and the rest of the troupe. In particular, Ned Beatty’s warm work as Lotso and Michael Keaton’s hilarious turn as Ken stand out – although there’s little doubt that even the most minor of players is afforded their opportunity to shine. (WALL-E veteran Jeff Garlin is particularly entertaining in his small role as a world-weary unicorn named Buttercup.)
The Bottom Line
Toy Story 3 ultimately stands as the darkest entry within the trilogy, as the film boasts a number of tense and surprisingly frightening interludes that will probably induce nightmares in extremely young viewers. (Three words: Cymbal-clanging monkey.) And as was the case with the first two Toy Story movies, Toy Story 3 features a periodic emphasis on heavy concepts that are rarely found in so-called “kiddie” flicks – with one particular stretch near the film’s close, in which the various characters are forced to confront their own mortality, standing as one of the most haunting sequences ever found in a G-rated production.
Toy Story 3 follows in the footsteps of such Pixar masterpieces as Finding Nemo and Up in terms of its appeal for viewers of all ages, and - we say this with the release of every new film from the studio - it's impossible not to wonder how Pixar is going to top themselves on their next go-around.
Toy Story 3 was directed by Lee Unkrich and is rated G.
Theatrical Release Date: June 18, 2010