First Night Flicks: Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack Ned Beatty
Rated G

For a short while, when I was a child, I had my own room. I kept the bottom row of the television stand in that room lined with my favorite toys: a plush E.T. doll, She-Ra, some Barbies. I was convinced that those toys came alive and had wonderful adventures together while I was sleeping. I would pretend to sleep some nights in the hopes of confirming my suspicions, but my toys were too smart for me.

The first Toy Story film was the realization of all my childhood fantasies. Someone else had thought about the life of a toy away from the child who played with it. That Toy Story 2 was as good a movie as the first was nothing short of a cinematic miracle. As the release of Toy Story 3 approached, though, I found myself wondering if lighting could strike three times. There has been more than one recent cinematic trilogy with good, if not great, first and second installments only to fall spectacularly apart on the third film (Spider-Man and X-Men come immediately to mind). Also, Pixar, in 15 years of creating feature-length animation, has yet to make a bad film. I’m always wondering and worrying that the streak will end.

I should have trusted Pixar.

Toy Story 3 is the perfect companion piece to its prequels. It realizes the passage of time since the last installment and finds the right story to tell for these characters. Andy (John Morris) is all grown up and getting ready to go to college. Through the years, he has held onto a handful of beloved toys but must now make big decisions about their future: does he take them with him to college, donate them to the day care, store them in the attic or simply throw them away. A misunderstanding leaves the toys feeling abandoned and they decided to stow away in the box of donations Andy’s mom (Laurie Metcalf) is dropping off at the local day care.

While at the daycare, we are introduced to new toys, led by Lots-O’-Huggin’-Bear (Beatty) who seems extra sweet and smells of strawberries. His right hand man is a Ken doll (Michael Keaton) who instantly falls for the Barbie (Jodi Benson) that Andy’s sister, Molly (Beatrice Miller) cast aside. Woody (Hanks), ever believing that they are Andy’s toys and, as such, should remain loyal to him regardless of whether they ever get played with again, decides to make his way back to Andy’s house before he leaves for college. In his attempt to get out of the day care, he is tangled up in a tree and discovered by Bonnie (Emily Hahn), the young daughter of the daycare’s director, who takes him home to add to her collection.

Woody’s adventures at Bonnie’s home are brief, but enjoyable. Bonnie has an extremely active imagination and a fine collection of toys with their own hierarchy: Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), the stuffed porcupine thespian; Dolly (Bonnie Hunt); a stuffed unicorn named Buttercup (Jeff Garlin); and, of course, her own friendly dinosaur, Trixie (Kristen Schaal), a triceratops. It’s at Bonnie’s that Woody learns the truth about the Shadyside Day Care facility and has to make a decision between getting home to Andy or helping his family of toys.

Back at the daycare, Buzz Lightyear (Allen), Jessie (Cusack), and the rest of the toys have been placed in the caterpillar room, which is for the youngest charges of the center and undergo some truly harrowing experiences, when looked at from the perspective of a toy. They make their own, less successful, decision to leave the daycare, which leads to yet another mishap for poor Buzz.

Toy Story 3 tackles some very serious, dramatic issues of childhood, growing up and moving on in a way that is both entertaining and touching for all ages. I don’t have any children of my own, but I fail to see how any parent would not be moved by it’s themes of letting go. As our children grow older, we have to give them more room to mature, more freedoms, until they are finally adults and we must let them go into the world to make their own way. While there are brief moments between Andy and his mom saying goodbye, the film is really about the toys letting go of the child they have taken care of for as long as they can remember.

Toy Story 3 is the latest Pixar masterpiece to make me cry like my dog just died.