Five out of Five Stars
Rated G/124 min.
I have a toy dog my little brother gave me for my birthday, a plush stuffed animal I named Pee Wee. I’ve taken him with me everywhere, even to college, and today he sits proudly on a shelf in my office. I’m not sure why I love Pee Wee so much. Maybe it’s because my brother thoughtfully bought it for me from our favorite store growing up, Compleat Comics in Wailuku, or because, with his big eyes and never-failing grin, that dog is just so friggin’ cute. On the other hand, I was going through some boxes the other day and came across four stuffed toys I recognized from baby photos but have neglected. I couldn’t even remember what I named them. Pee Wee sits on his throne, while the other toys are gathering dust. I thought about those other toys with a pang of guilt as I watched Toy Story 3, which tackles the subject of old toys, and the loss of childhood innocence they represent, with tenderness and humor.
Andy, the boy from the first two Toy Story films, is going off to college and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), Woody (Tom Hanks) and the rest of Andy’s toys are being put in a box that will be stacked in the attic and presumably forgotten. This sets off a chain of events that leads the gang to a day care center where they’re forced to ponder their worth as playthings and their mortality. Yes, you read that right: this is an existential CGI children’s film. Yet because it’s from Pixar, this is also a brilliantly animated, stunningly written character comedy that kids will enjoy and adults will savor. That said, while I wouldn’t call the film violent, it has some scenes that were tough, even for me. The subjects of death, finding your purpose and dealing with life’s sometimes cruel twists are handled with a maturity and darkness that’s rare for Disney products.
In case I’ve made this sound like an overly serious bummer, let me assure fans of the prior two films that this is, with little competition, the funniest movie of the year so far. Kids who are older and can handle what happened to Bambi’s mother will find this as satisfying as adults. Meanwhile, you’ve got voice talent that is well-matched all around and new characters that hit pay dirt. Michael Keaton is in full comic brilliance as Ken to a starry-eyed Barbie and Ned Beatty, voice cast as a fuzzy bear, has a role that annoyed me initially, until I realized the ingenious way his character was being set up.
Scenes that deal with the dangers of conforming to a corrupt system and the other serious-minded story elements don’t overwhelm the film, because the humor is so smart and balanced with exciting set pieces and heartfelt moments.
I had my doubts as to whether Pixar could pull this one off; did we really need a third Toy Story and could they find something new to say? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes.