- Rated G
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by David Medsker
oys get lost, toys overcome tremendous odds to find way home without letting on to humans that toys can move and talk on their own. There are only so many ways you can tell that tale, so it is to the great credit to the writers of Pixar’s “Toy Story” movies that they have been able to make so much out of such a limited premise. Admittedly, there are aspects of “Toy Story 3” that will recall the first two installments, and in the end the movie is a farewell lap around the track of sorts. Fortunately, it’s a highly entertaining lap, with an ending that will reduce every parent in the audience to tears. If you thought the ‘married life’ sequence in “Up” was a tearjerker, bring a box of tissues to this one.
Andy, the owner of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), is headed off to college. Andy decides to take Woody to school with him while storing the others in the attic, but a mix-up sends all of them to Sunnyside Day Care Center, where they are met with open arms by Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty). On the surface Sunnyside looks like all the answers to their fears of being thrown away or stuffed in a box, but what Andy’s toys don’t realize is that Sunnyside is a toy prison, and Lotso is the warden, safely ensconced at the top of the kiddie food chain. Woody is able to escape with a child who attends Sunnyside before learning the ugly truth from the child’s other toys. Once he realizes what his friends are up against, he decides to break back into Sunnyside and get them all back to Andy’s house before he leaves for school.
As you can see, similarities to the first two “Toy Story” movies are unavoidable. In “Toy Story,” Woody and Buzz had to get back home before Andy moved away. Here, they have to get back before Andy goes off to school, with the Cowgirl Jesse subplot from “Toy Story 2” brought back in the form of the bitter Lotso. (No heartbreaking song from Sarah McLachlan, though.) And once again, Woody tells the truth, and the other toys don’t believe him. However, their execution of these devices is much different this time around – the plot doesn’t revolve around the other toys not believing Woody, like it did in the first “Toy Story” – so the sense of déjà vu is fleeting.
Visually, this is the biggest movie Pixar has ever made, particularly the climactic scene at the junkyard that features one of the most quietly touching moments in Pixar history. (It will also likely terrify small children, so parents, please exercise caution.) The hilarious scene involving a re-appropriated Mr. Potato Head must have been a technical nightmare, but the scene that will have people talking is the ending. It isn’t big or fancy, but rather the sweetest, most heartfelt moment in any Pixar film to date, with a reaction shot that will elicit the exact same response from the audience as it does from the character on screen.
What makes “Toy Story 3” so special is its humanity. The characters have always shown their feelings, but this time around, they show heart, and it makes for the most emotionally satisfying “Toy Story” of the bunch. Pixar does it yet again.
Four-Disc Blu-ray Review:
There are a number of reasons to love Pixar, and one of them is that they put as much work into their home video releases as the films themselves. “Toy Story 3” is no exception, and the Blu-ray release is positively overflowing with bonus material. Disc One doesn’t contain much in the way of extras, but you will find the “Day & Night” short that played before the movie in theaters, an educational short about space called “Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure,” and a brief featurette about re-animating the old characters and designing the new ones for the film. There’s also a DVD and digital copy, as has become standard with all major Disney releases.
The rest of the special features are located on Disc Two, including a pair of audio commentaries – one by Lee Unkrich and producer Darla Anderson with pop-up storyboards, and another by various Pixar crew members – as well as more extras than the average consumer can handle. There’s a roundtable discussion on scripting the Bonnie’s Playtime sequence, a look at the film’s original opening, a helpful lesson from writer Michael Arndt on scriptwriting, and two more featurettes that highlight the unsung animators and editors who helped make the film. But that’s not all. You’ll also find a voice cast featurette, a discussion on the film’s ending, some funny animated stories about working in the Pixar offices, an interactive trivia game called "Toy Story Trivia Dash,” tons of publicity material including trailers, TV spots and viral videos like a retro Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear commercial (in Japanese!), and believe it or not, much more.