Review: Toy Story 3 ★★★½

Toy Story 3 (USA, 103 min.)

Dir: Lee Unkrich; Writ: Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris.
Disney and Pixar have opened their magical toy box once again and, like a teddy bear that has been hidden away for fifteen years, their latest endeavor shows a little wear, but it still brings out the kid in you. Likewise, Andy, who we first saw as an imaginative little boy in Toy Story and Toy Story 2, is all grown up: he’s heading off to college and must decide what to do with his childhood treasures. Ever the sentimentalist, Andy opts to take Woody with him (a clear foreshadowing that our poor unsuspecting Andy faces four years of atomic wedgies). Andy packs Buzz (Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang away to store in the attic, but his mother mistakes the toys for trash and puts them at the curb.

Fortunately, Woody (Tom Hanks) witnesses the error and attempts to rescue his comrades. The rest of the toys, however, feel spurned at the thought that Andy considers them nothing but junk, so they stow away in the box Andy’s mom intends to donate to the local daycare.

The toys arrive at Sunnyside Daycare, where they are greeted by the playroom overlord – a strawberry scented teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty, Network). Lotso directs the new arrivals to their proper room. At first, Andy’s toys are delighted by the prospect of being in a land of continuous play after lying dormant in the toy chest for several years. However, the toys quickly discover that their new owners are a group a hell-raising tots that assault them with paint, spit, boogers, and an unrelenting enthusiasm for bashing toys against hard surfaces.

As the offended toys try and make sense of their new environment, Woody tries to convince them to return to Andy, but they are too scorned to believe that Andy still wants them. What results is Woody’s self-righteous departure, and a collective despair between the remaining toys when they soon realize that Lotso is not the cuddly teddy bear he appears to be. Rather, he’s a vindictive beast who’s orchestrating a form of playroom apartheid.

If this Toy Story sounds more serious than the previous installments, that’s because it is. Toy Story 3 is unfortunately a little too geared towards older audience members for its own good. At times, especially towards the end of the film, Toy Story 3 is bogged down by sentimentality. Understandably, the film is intended to be a warm gesture towards young moviegoers who were the same age as Andy when the Toy Story saga began. However, like I was when I too packed/gave away my childhood playthings, I felt rather indifferent to this group of toys that delighted me fifteen years ago. So much time has passed between the Toy Story films that the final installment lacks the freshness of the first film. (Honestly, I couldn’t even remember Toy Story 2 as I sat waiting for number three to begin.) Moreover, Toy Story was such an achievement because it was the first full-length computer-animated feature. The animation of Toy Story 3 is undeniably superior to of its predecessor, but since Pixar now churns out so many computer-animated features, the awe is gone.

Nonetheless, Toy Story 3 is almost as fun a romp as the first two. The film is extremely witty and it offers a sufficient blend of action and humor to engage audience members both young and old. The highlight of Toy Story 3 is the comic relief provided by the supporting toys – voiced by Don Rickles and Seinfeld’s Estelle Harris, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are particularly amusing, as is Wallace Shawn’s Rex the Dinosaur.

More impressive than Toy Story 3 is the animated short that precedes it. Day & Night is a clever cartoon in which Day and Night meet each other for the first time. Both are awed and scared by the exotic differences of the other. The animation of Day & Night is very impressive, as each character embodies a scenic landscape that flows with the movement of each character against black backdrop. Day & Night is a marvel of imagination and filmmaking skills equal to those of the first Toy Story. If only what followed it was too.