|Toy Story 3 expertly combines dazzling visuals and thrilling adventure, with a touching story about saying goodbye to old friends.
Released little over a decade after the second instalment, this third film in the popular animated series takes an entertaining, emotional fulfilling, and surprisingly direct look at what happens when toys are outgrown and unwanted by their human playmates.
It opens with an adventure sequence that is as thrilling as it is vibrant, the result of a young child’s imagination at full power, with his toys – Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang - the main players in a battle between good and evil, complete with monkey nukes and flying pigs.
Yet that was the past, and young Andy (John Morris) ain’t no kid anymore. He’s now bound for college, and playing with toys is just not cool.
Feeling neglected, Woody, Buzz and co. prepare for retirement in the attic, but a mistake sees the troop donated to the Sunnyside Day Care Centre, a supposed utopia which quickly reveals itself to be a prison from hell, with one sequence akin to a toy massacre at the hands of snot nosed tots.
Running the show is Lotso, a big bossman-esque, strawberry scented, cuddly bear with a big chip on his shoulder, who is voiced by1970s character actor extraordinaire Ned Beatty.
He is one of many new characters who fit in very well with the established crowd. Others include Big Baby, Lotso’s enforcer complete with jailhouse tats, and Mattle© pretty boy Ken, self absorbed and always looking good with his never ending selection of clothes, actor Michael Keaton stealing the show with some wonderful voice work.
The majority of the film is focused on the toys trying to escape Sunnyside, and in the process it becomes one of the best escape from prison films ever made. Director / co-writer Lee Unkrich and his talented crew (which includes Pixar greats John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton) researched many an escape-from-prison movie, and it shows with plenty of sly pop culture riffs that thankfully does not overwhelm the story at hand.
And that is exactly the strength in both Toy Story 3 and indeed Pixar’s persistent ingenuity. Yes, the visuals are superb. The voice acting, as always, excellent. Yet it is the writing which makes Pixar an animation studio, nay, film studio that is always above the grade and ahead of the pack.
The depth to this story will make many weep and laugh, and often at the same time, as Andy moves on to adulthood, and Woody’s persistent faith in his best friend is continuously tested. As old relationships end and new relationships begin, we the viewer are fulfilled with emotion by its story, and in awe of how it is presented.
For that reason, Toy Story 3 is a fitting finale to a franchise that is damn hard to say goodbye to.