A few nasty thoughts escaped as the film began: I was unconvinced; it had been too long since the last outing (1999). I still knew the characters, every last one. It was if I’d known them my whole life, some people have. The familiarity turned me off; I wanted something new. This was twenty minutes in.
“Toy Story 3,” the final feature outing of Woody and Buzz is the end of a long journey. 15 years have passed. Audience members who were children for 1995’s “Toy Story” are teenagers, teenagers became adults, and everyone else has passed time in that lumbering forgetful way we often do. And, this is where we should take note: The greatness of Toy Story’s latest outing is its reflection of our own journeys and sometimes painful transitions in life.
Through the innocent eyes of toys who want nothing more than to belong, this journey becomes one worth undertaking, if only because the innocence allows the questions to be so easily turned on ourselves.
With exploding trains, pig spaceships, and an action sequence born from young Andy’s imagination, Buzz, Woody, the Potato Heads, and every familiar face are reintroduced one by one. It’s the jarring switch moments later when we realize this is a memory. Today, a trunk is pushed up against the wall, and that’s where the toys stay. Inside.
Andy, now college aged, is leaving home, and his toys are donated to the local daycare, which we soon learn is run by a sinister stuffed bear that smells like strawberries.
Seemingly abandoned, Woody leads his friends on an adventure home, asking them to trust him that their donation was a mistake. He asks them to understand that their connection with Andy is something that will always be there. They are Andy’s toys, and this is one of those bonds in life that is never broken. They weren’t abandoned; if only they’d believe him.
In a series of action sequences and escape attempts rivaling some of the best escape films out there, the film leads us through laughter and tears. And seriously, how much else do you want to know with out spoilers inevitably sneaking in?
Does Andy’s love for his friends persevere? Does Woody inspire the faith needed to keep his friends alive long enough to get home? Are they in mortal danger? (Well, as much as a plastic toy can be.)
Directed by Lee Unkrich, “Toy Story 3” is a bittersweet, endearing, and altogether wondrous finale. It’s the end to a trilogy, and an end to which other films should aspire. Call me a convert. I fell in love all over again.
What: “Toy Story 3"
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty
Should you go? Yes.