Toy Story 3

What It Is

It’s good to be toys. At least that’s the first thought offered up in Toy Story 3, as Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) chase down a runaway train full of orphans (played by a squad of green- and pink-haired trolls). And just when the situation looks most dire, yet another toy—Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) booms in to rescue everyone. It’s fun, it’s rambunctious, and it looks pretty endless. When you’re a toy and played with, you can be heroic and happy every day. Even when you play a villain, you know it’s a game, and you’ll be back into the joyful toys-family fold by dinnertime.

But then again, this toy story goes, your kid grows up, and your playing days, once so bountiful, are past. As Woody and the gang worry that Andy (John Morris) is now 17 and leaving for college, they hear his mother (Laurie Metcalf) suggest he store his old stuff in the attic or throw it in the trash. Horrified, the toys instead finagle for a third option, making their way into a box bound for Sunnyside, the local daycare center. As the usual toys—Hamm (John Ratzenberg), Rex (Wallace Shawn), and the potato Heads (Estelle Harris and Don Rickles)—are joined by Barbie (Jodi Benson), all worry that their new home won’t be the same, that any change is by definition scary.

At Sunnyside, they’re greeted by Ken (Michael Keaton), who falls instantly in love with Barbie, and Lotso (Ned Beatty), a plush pink teddy bear who promises the newcomers that here they will be played with—forever. When the daycare kids grow up, he points out, others replace them. “You’ll never be outgrown and neglected,” Lotso rhapsodizes. “No owners means no heartbreak.”

Still, Woody is skeptical, his loyal determination to “always be there for Andy” unshakable. And so he heads back home, leaving his friends to discover that, in fact, Sunnyside is more like a prison than a refuge. While Lotso and his friends stay in the “Butterfly Room,” where the children play with them gently, he assigns the new toys to “Caterpillar Room,” where little kids pound, bite, lick, tear apart and slam their playthings into walls, when they’re not using them as paintbrushes or dunking them in paste. Where before Andy’s toys had outlived his interest, now they’re condemned to be abused—forever.

What follows is something like a prison-break movie (see: The Great Escape), with scene after scene presenting daunting obstacles and ingenious maneuvers. As Woody and Buzz once again make a terrific and entertaining team, the other toys join in, each contributing a specific skill: Slinky Dog’s (Blake Clark) metallic-stretch is especially helpful, as is Mrs. Potato Head’s missing eye, left behind in Andy’s room. The toy family comes to realize that even if they belong to Andy, their most lasting allegiance is to each other.

Why It’s Fun

If the plot and themes this time are less obviously bright and cheerful than the first two Toy Storys, the movie is just as funny and sharp. Again, the toys are incredibly appealing (even big bad Lotso has a couple of nuanced moments), the action is well paced, and the questions posed are both constructive and exceptional.

So, as the toys here wonder about how to handle Andy’s growing up (and he wonders a little himself, in a nice bit of human character development), they are also facing their own process of maturing. And if ever panicky Rex and grumpy Hamm will never quite get over their childish fears and limited expectations, they do learn to trust in Woody’s judgment, and so feel reassured.

Moreover, Toy Story 3 is a rarity this summer season, being a 3D movie that actually makes good, unsplashy use of the technology. (And the short that precedes it, Day & Night, is a clever mix of 3D imagery and gracefully abstract concept.)

Who’s Going To Love It

It’s hard to imagine who won’t like Toy Story 3. Certainly those who love the first two entries in this trilogy will love this one, even if they’ve grown older since 1999, when Toy Story 2 arrived in theaters. Younger viewers, who’ve watched these and other Pixar movies on DVDs and TV, will also appreciate the color, mayhem, and sweetness of this latest release.

What To Be Aware Of

Some scenes feature explosions and possible danger to beloved characters. At film’s start, a train falls off a broken track into a seemingly gargantuan canyon, and near the climax, the toys seem headed for a trash incinerator, wild orange and yellow flames a-leaping.

Some scenes are potentially tense, or at least might make little hearts beat faster: the toys caught in a dark plastic garbage bag, then apparently about to be crushed in a garbage truck masher and later still, shredded in a compost-maker. (Woody runs with scissors during one effort to save his friends: kids, don’t do this at home.)

The toys engineer one narrow escape after another, usually followed by some conversation among the toys, as they ponder options as well as lessons learned. This helps to make the toys’ fears (especially as they face what seems a certain fiery end) understandable but not unbearable. You empathize but also imagine they’ll manage yet another escape.

Lotso’s own background—a trauma concerning his own kid—is revealed in flashback narrated by Chuckles (Bud Luckey), a clown who is at first very sad indeed. These events take place in a rainstorm that underscores the emotional hardship but also, in its melodramatic excess, may be quite amusing for viewers over eight.

Ken, for all his preening self-performance as Barbie’s perfect mate (“We’re made for each other!”, they yelp in unison when they meet), is also presented in a way that’s stereotypically gay—or maybe just flamboyantly dated. His love of disco, his ascot, his Dream House, and his closet full of outfits incite some winking and eye-rolling by his fellow toys (“He’s a girl’s toy!”, scoffs one). At the same time, he’s consistently absurd, antic, and delightful.

See-It-Again Points

10 out of 10

Film Information

Toy Story 3
Director: Lee Unkrich
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris
Studio: Disney/Pixar
Year: 2010
Rated: G
US Premiere: June 18, 2010
UK Premiere: June 18, 2010
Official Website
Official Trailer
Movie Pictures

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