42 Screens: Toy Story 3

Since 2004 a third film in the Toy Story series has been in and out of development, with numerous different plot ideas including one about a recalled Buzz being shipped to Taiwan, but after eleven years since Toy Story 2 and a stunning fifteen years since the original we are finally blessed with another story about the spaceman Buzz and cowboy Woody in Toy Story 3

After a wild prologue with Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Jessie saving a trainload of orphans from the evil pig mastermind—which draws elements from anime, transformers, other big budget action films and even the original Toy Story (money money money)—we jump a decade ahead to a future where Andy no longer plays with toys and he’s going off to college.

With his room being cleaned and his stuff being packed we see the question of the toy’s fate.  Should the toys be stuck in the attic? Donated to Sunnyside, a children’s day-care center? Or left on the curb for the garbage truck?  The few remaining toys left, which includes the sister’s cast-off Barbie, are reeling from the loss of old friends (including Woody’s loss of Bo Peep) and is scared by the possibilities for their future but none more than Jessie who has gone through this in the past.

After mix-ups and chases, they end up at Sunnyside, where the toy that calls the shots is the formidable huggy bear with the great southern stentorian voice Lotso.  This bear Lotso is a character with stature and soon our gang discovers he runs Sunnyside as a kind of prison. The big bald baby doll functions as a spooky enforcer who looks like a golem and acts like Darth Vader. A cymbal-clashing monkey is the prison guard of nightmares.  The group gets separated with Woody ending up with a young girl named Bonnie, a girl who reminds him of Andy in his younger days, and the Buzz and the rest remaining at the daycare.  In a hilarious turn we find Buzz has been reprogrammed to be his old pompous self to help Lotso keep everyone in cages transforming Toy Story 3 into a thrilling prison-break movie – drawing heavily on the great escape.

After many years and numerous successful films to draw experience from Pixar knows what works in a family movie.  Be they thee little things that win your heart, like Woody escaping out the bathroom window but pausing to put down a sheet of toilet paper before stepping on the seat, or the new spin on all our culture’s Ken-is-gay jokes, he’s a metrosexual exhilarated at finding someone to whom he can show off his disco wardrobe, the gags are priceless, never stepping over a line like past Disney film (Aladdin and Mulan), right up to the forlorn yet enchanting finale that will draw tears.

Kids will love the movie for its cliff-hangers and slapstick humour. But for grown-ups, the movie will draw on the heartfelt wish that childhood memories will never fade. This lovely movie sews together our fears of being abandoned and forgotten with the blissful fantasies of the past that helped build us into who we are today—and offers hope that we can somehow reconcile those poles of existence for ourselves.

The film adds an outstanding number of new cast members with famous voices to give them life many with strong geek credentials.  These include Jodi Benson, Ned Beatty, Bud Luckey, Kristen Schaal. Blake Clark, Bonnie Hunt, Seth Rogan, Teddy Newton, TNG’s Whoopie Goldberg, Metal Gear Solid’s John Cygan (Solidus Snake) and Lori Alan (The Boss), Stargate Atlanis’ Richard Kind, the caped crusader Michael Keaton and the world famous spy/timelord Timothy Dalton (he was Rassilon before you ask).

Yet despite this star studded cast what really stole the show for some was Ned Beatty portrayal of Lotso.  The Toy Story films have always been about aging, impermanence, loss, and death, and because of such have often called upon strong and dark emotions.  In the original we saw Woody fall into some dark emotions of jealousy, scheming to take Buzz out, and the twisted and psychotic Sid; in the sequel we saw the dark and rancour filled Stinky manipulating Woody for his own needs, but with Lotso we come to a new level of villainy for the series.  He is a dark toy shattered by abandonment and replacement who as a result has purged himself of sentiment and kindness.  Watching this film you find yourself reviewing what you just saw and questioning if this is in fact a family film.  Never does the film do anything inappropriate or wrong but much like Charles F. Muntz from last year’s Up, Lotso is a villain darker than anything seen before in a family movie.  He is an emotionally scarred character that doesn’t take its children viewers as young or stupid as other films in the past have.

As what can only be the aftermath of creators John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and director Lee Unkrich’s getting older and having families. Woody and the rest of the toys see Andy through the eyes a parent whose kids are ready to move on.  This is an emotionally strong film that pulls our heart strings while still tickling our funny bone.  It is a great movie that no one should miss.

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