Toy Story 3
Funny how I never noticed the redundant storyline of the TOY STORY series. The toys, sometimes one of them, sometimes many, get lost or misplaced by their owner and have to find their way home. In the first, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) got knocked into the neighbors yard and had to be rescued. In the second, Woody (Tom Hanks) was mistakenly placed in a garage sale and bought by a toy collector for EBay resale. And here in the third installment, the toys are mistakenly sent to a Day Care Center while their owner Andy goes to college. But we let Pixar get away with this redundant theme for the same reason we let John McClane get into such similar predicaments in the DIE HARD trilogy. We like the characters, we like the storylines, and the stories themselves are told in such an engaging way, we can forgive the inherent redundancy. This third installment follows all those basic premises, and the story it tells is funny, emotionally charged, and well constructed to easily fit into the pantheon of truly entertaining movie-going experiences the people of Pixar have been providing us since Woody and Buzz first feuded back in 1995. If you have kids or even if you have even a small part of you that never grew up, you will love this movie.
The opening sequence is a nostalgic, fun piece reminiscing on the days when Andy used to play with his toys. But we then cut to the present day, when Andy is 17, going to college, and the toys have to plan elaborate scams to even have Andy pick them up out of the toy box again. Then the toys have to be chosen as to which ones will go with Andy to college, which ones will go to the attic, and which ones will be thrown away (and honestly, how many of our childhood toys did we take with us to college). Due to a mishap, most of the toys end up going to the Sunnyside Day Care Center, which seems okay at first, as the Day Care Center toys, led by lovable plush bear Lotso Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty). However, as the new toys are handled and mishandled by toddlers, Andy’s toys realize Lotso is not the benevolent leader he appeared to be. Woody also deals with an existential crisis, as he debates staying in the DayCare Center or returning to Andy, knowing full well Andy doesn’t play with him anymore. Woody is found by a young girl and added to her play room, so he can remember the original glee of being played with by an age-appropriate child. All of these stories culminate in countless tense chase and escape sequences for the toys we’ve come to care so much about all these years: the toys avoiding the trash, the toys escaping the nursery, the toys escaping the trash again, and finally trying to get back to Andy before he leaves for college. All of these chase and escapes, despite the fact that they are undertaken by toys, was genuinely suspenseful to all those in the theater, and for Pixar to make us care that much for plastic and plush toys is again a tremendous credit to their creative abilities.
There are bit jokes with other toys that are played for good laughs. Everything Rex the Dinosaur says is hilarious thanks to the voice of Wallace Shawn. The other characters are given their share of funny lines and situations as well, from John Ratzenberger as Hamm the Piggy Bank, to the new character, Ken (Barbie’s counterpart), voiced by unknown pretty boy Michael Keaton. There is also a hilariously innovative take on Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) which had me laughing every time I saw it. Buzz Lightyear is given a few funny scenes as well, as he is reprogrammed into several different settings, making me believe that Tim Allen can be funny again (briefly, I still can’t abide FOR RICHER OR POORER). And Tom Hanks lends his great voice again to that lovable cowboy Woody, that we all wish was at one point our childhood toy. The situations these characters get into, fantastic as they may be, have us all at the front 1/3 of our seats. And the reason…we care about them. Pixar has done it again.
Also, as post script, or rather pre script…the short before the movie “Day and Night” is truly original, entertaining, and it deserves praise, though it is a bit abstract and may confuse the younger audience. You will enjoy this as well. All in all, a dang fine way to spend 2 hours. Thanks again, Pixar