When a studio delivers a third installment in a series, it's often more focused on making money rather than making the movie, but the folks at Pixar honor their legacy and reveal respect for their audience with the outstanding Toy Story 3, which will not only be talked about as one of the best films of 2010, but as part of one of the best film trilogies ever created.
Toy Story 3 opens with a wonderfully imaginative and memorable sequence from the mind of Andy, and the equally imaginative, creative team led by director Lee Unkrich, as heroes Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) battle against villains Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) and Hamm (Pixar good-luck charm John Ratzenberger). The story then flashes forward and Andy is heading off to college. His sister, Molly, is eager to get his room, so at the behest of his mother he has to decide what he's taking, what goes in the attic, and what goes in the garbage.
The toys are understandably nervous at the prospects, especially when all but Woody are placed inside a garbage bag. Andy intends to place them in the attic, but when he leaves the bag on the floor, his mother makes an assumption and places the bag on the curb. The toys escape and make their way into a box headed for Sunnyside Daycare. Woody tries to explain the mix-up, but the toys prefer to go where they will be played with rather than hidden in the attic.
Once there, they are given a grand tour of the facilities by the toy in charge: the kindly, strawberry-scented Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty). Sunnyside Daycare appears to be a toy's dream because new children replace the ones who outgrow the place, and the gang is happy with their decision. Woody implores them to return to Andy, but they choose playing with children over sitting in an attic in the hopes that one day a young man will remember they are up there.
Woody's return to Andy is foiled when a young girl named Bonnie finds him. She takes Woody home where he meets her toys, including the ever-so-serious Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton) and the playful Peas-In-A-Pod. During a playtime break, Woody learns the dream his friends were presented is actually a nightmare, so he attempts to return to Sunnyside and rescue them. This sets off a series of amazing sequences filled with action, humor, and suspense as the toys find themselves going from the frying pan almost literally into the fire. However, what is most engaging is the film's conclusion, which exudes such unadulterated joy it will tug at your heartstrings, so keep something handy to wipe away the tears.
The reason Toy Story 3 works so well is because the creative team gets so many things right. The story is a natural progression of events in the characters' lives as opposed to feeling like a forced reunion. Even though they are toys, the audience has grown to care very much about these characters over the series in part because the actors do such an excellent job bringing them to life. That also goes for the new characters introduced, the standout being clotheshorse Ken (Michael Keaton). Much of the humor, which is very clever and unexpected, comes out of the characters and the situations, particularly the transformations of Buzz and Mr. Potato Head. The emotions evoked are true as the story deals with love, family, and separation, and at no time feels manipulative.
Get to the film early because Toy Story 3 is preceded by Teddy Newton's "Day & Night," one of the more inventive Pixar shorts. The embodiments of Day and Night meet for the first time and bring each other new experiences that they delight in. For example, Night had never seen pretty girls sunning themselves on the beach, and Day had never seen fireworks. It's remarkably clever when the creatures pass over objects, which immediately change in appearance, like a Vegas hotel.
While James Cameron created in Avatar an event film that needed to be seen in theaters due to its brilliant use of technology, Lee Unkrich has created in Toy Story 3 an event film that needs to be seen in theaters due its brilliant use of characters and story.