Toy Story 3 Brightens Up a Bleak Cinematic Summer!


Toy Story 3 is that most unusual of films: a second sequel that matches – or betters – its predecessors. The setting, as with Toy Stories 1 & 2, is the present – which means that Andy [John Morris] is about to head off to college. For Woody [Tom Hanks], Buzz [Time Allen] and the rest of his toys, this is a time for panic. Will they be thrown away? Stored in the attic? Donated to someone else?

Circumstances place the group in a daycare center where they meet a new bunch of toys – like Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear [Ned Beatty], whose folks charm hides depths of cruelty and the flamboyant Ken [Michael Keaton], Barbie’s dream boyfriend [but even he hides a dark secret]. After a day of brutal treatment at the hands of a roomful of unruly toddlers, Buzz learns that Lotso and his group are not what they seem. He’s captured and reprogrammed to keep his friends in a virtual prison. Before the story is over, the toys will face much worse.

From a full summary of Toy Story 3, you could think that it’s a dark film, but the genius of director/co-writer Lee Unkrich and fellow co-writers John Lasseter and Michael Arndt is that they exactly how much edge the story needs to make film’s comedy and genuine emotion work.

Together, they have crafted a film that explores the need for love and the way the passage of time causes change. In Toy Story 3, the three have completed a story that, in its own small way, defines us: the need for love, understanding, friendship: the way that growth is a shared experience, and the way that friends help us to become more than we could possibly be on our own. It’s all about growing up without forgetting the joys and sorrows of do so.

That they’ve done this by creating a pastiche of several genre films [prison break, action-adventure, coming of age] that wouldn’t necessarily be as thoughtful and sincere is simply another day at work for the folks at Pixar. When they say they won’t make a film until they’ve got the story just right, they’re not kidding. No other company can claim that their first twelve movies were gems – and no other company could have created a threequel that works as well as its series’ original [or maybe even betters it].


There are sequences in Toy Story 3 that amaze and delight [the Spanish Buzz Lightyear among them], but there are dramatic beats that will have you on the edge of your seat – no matter what age you are. Some sequences may be frightening for very young viewers [pre-schoolers, I’d imagine], but even the most harrowing moments are leavened with unexpected humor.

You’ll notice that I haven’t said anything about the 3D, so far. That’s because, even though it’s crisp and clean and definitely adds depth to the world of the film, it isn’t really a necessity. This is one film that really doesn’t need the extra D. If I was to see it again, I’d go to a 2D screening and, I’d expect, get just as much out of the experience.

Some reviewers will, no doubt, try to tell you that Toy Story 3 seems so good only because this hasn’t been a great summer [so far] for great movies. I spent a few hours, this afternoon, re-screening the first two parts of the series and have to say that Toy Story 3 is really that good – it’s the best film I’ve seen so far this year.

Final Grade: A+