Packed with equal parts comedy, adventure and drama, Toy Story 3 is a Pixar classic. It has the same mix of humor and heart that the first Toy Story film had 15 years ago. Alternately hilarious, suspenseful, cute and heartbreaking, the movie succeeds because it doesn’t shy away from this range of emotion.
Toy Story 3 opens with a fantastic action sequence which serves to reintroduce toys from the first and second movies—Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jesse, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm, and even the Pizza Planet aliens. As I watched Buzz help Woody save a train full of little troll babies from the villainous Dr. Porkchop (aka Hamm the piggy bank), I remembered how much I love these characters. A wave of nostalgia came flooding back and I sat back to enjoy the ride.
The old cast of characters is joined by several new ones—most of them at Sunnyside Daycare, where Woody and the gang are donated by accident. There’s Lotso, a strawberry-scented bear with a Southern accent and a checkered past; his accomplice, a creepy baby doll; a fabulous Ken doll, a squishy purple octopus and even a scary, screeching monkey who mans the daycare’s security cameras at night. Woody also meets Mr. Pricklepants, a British hedgehog wearing lederhosen, Buttercup the unicorn, and Trixie, a triceratops with an adorable lisp. This blend of old and new keeps the movie fresh while retaining the classic elements of the original movies. The humor in Toy Story 3 is smart and original. Pixar never resorts to fart jokes for the kids or innuendo for the parents for cheap laughs. The plot is fast-paced and surprisingly action-packed throughout, each scene subtly popping with 3-D (though the extra dimension wasn’t necessary, and rarely taken advantage of).
But what really hit home for me was when the opening fantasy action faded away to reveal a reality confined to Andy’s imagination—a past playtime recorded on a home video tape. Andy, the toys’ owner, is now 17 and headed off to college; the toys, stuffed in a trunk and downsized (Wheezy the penguin, Etch-a-Sketch and even Bo Peep are long gone), haven’t been played with for years, and their fate is uncertain as Andy decides whether to stuff them away or take them along.
I immediately connected with Andy’s dilemma. I had the same inseparable bond with my toys when I was little, and even though I eventually piled them up in the dustiest corners of my room, there’s something in me that would never let me throw one of them away. There’s something about being a teenager—hanging in that limbo between being a kid and an adult, remembering a carefree past and stressing over an unknown future (college apps, anyone?)—that makes you want to cling to whatever pieces of your childhood that you can. In a couple of years, I’ll be going away to college like Andy. Even though I’ve long outgrown my Build-A-Bears and American Girl dolls, it’ll be so hard to leave behind that part of my life for good. Pixar illustrates and deals with this early-life crisis beautifully. Don’t be surprised if some tears well up behind your 3-D glasses while watching the final scene of this funny and heartfelt film.