When I overheard Buzz Lightyear and Woody talking together back in 2002, they seemed worried about being replaced as Pixar’s favorite heroes. The reason? They had just attended a premiere for the popular Monster’s, Inc. Buzz even cut the conversation short to rush off and call his agent -- with Woody not far behind. Both were eager to find out why they hadn’t been cast yet in Toy Story 3. Fortunately, their phone calls paid off, for Toy Story 3 has now arrived at the multiplex. And what a triumph it is! In fact, it’s difficult for me to review this film. Words can’t do it justice. You’ll have to see it to find out what I mean. However, I’ll try to give you some inkling of the treat you’re in for with this incredible new Toy Story adventure.
Along with Woody and Buzz, the toy characters returning to charm us include Jessie, Bullseye, Rex, Slinky, Hamm, Barbie, and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. A major transition awaits all of them as a result of their owner Andy going off to college soon. Will they be put in the attic, thrown in the garbage, or donated to a day care center? There’s a suspenseful mix-up early on, and we can’t help feeling empathy for these toys who seem like old friends to us. They ache to be played with -- which hasn’t happened in a long time. So when most of them arrive at Sunnyside Day Care, they hope to enjoy rousing playtimes with the youngsters. But they didn’t count on those frantic, rambunctious toddlers!
Most of the film deals with heroic efforts to escape from Sunnyside and return home. Woody’s separation from the group for a time also tugs at our heartstrings, plus Buzz’s transformation into a passionate Spanish version makes us laugh whenever that particular switch is turned on. And we meet some fascinating new toys such as Big Baby, Lotso (a huge Teddy Bear who smells like strawberries and has an agenda of his own), Ken (yes, Barbie’s guy), Bookworm and a Talking Telephone.
Animation here comes across as first-rate, which helps us identify with the characters by making them appear so real. As usual in these Toy Story flicks, voice talent (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Javier Fernandez Pena, Judi Benson, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, etc.) is superb. Also, a creative script by Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) and John Lasseter (Cars) does a terrific job of emphasizing the relationship between toys and a child’s imagination – and, happily, director Lee Unkrich (Monster’s, Inc. and Toy Story 2) understands the importance of characters and story while moving the film along at just the right pace.
Although I’m all grown up with children and grandchildren of my own now, Toy Story 3 made me miss the toys I loved as a child. (Wonder what happened to my Shirley Temple doll and stick horse “Buddy”? We had such great times together!) Maybe that’s why I couldn’t stop crying at the film’s touching – yet highly satisfying -- ending.
(Released by Walt Disney Motion Pictures and rated “G” for general audiences.)
For more information about Toy Story 3, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.