“Toy Story 3” is one the best movies of the year. Pixar, John Lassiter, and company have done it again—crafted a visually captivating movie and a sentimental story with heart. I saw “Toy Story 3” when it first came out over a month ago. I waited until now to write a comment—not really compelled to generate something quickly. Tom Hank’s beloved cowboy toy Woody stares off to the distance and says, “So long partner.” I got a lump in my throat. For me Woody is really saying, “I will always love you, partner.” However, this catharsis of unconditional love and legacy does not seem to culminate from the chaos of the Daycare Center, the chases, and crises. Wonder if we could have arrived at the same space, otherwise. I recalled the eloquence of “Toy Story 2” with Sarah McLachlan singing “When Somebody Loved Me” over 10 years ago. I remember that fondly to this day, and being profoundly moved and inspired.
I think “Toy Story 3” is great, but falls short of “Toy Story 2”. Props to Director Lee Unkrich and Writers John Lassiter and Andrew Stanton for completing the trilogy in satisfying style. The animation is amazing and breathtaking. I loved the return of all the great character toys including Ken (Michael Keaton) and Barbie (Jodie Benson). However, I was puzzled by some of the darker narrative elements.
In the story, Andy (John Morris) prepares to leave for college. He must decide what to do with his old toys. Obviously, he can’t take them all with him—aside from perhaps Woody (Hanks). In a mix up the bulk of the toys including Buzz Lightyear (hysterical Tim Allen) end up as donations to Sunnyside Daycare. On the surface this may be new life for the toys—they will be loved by new children all over again. The subtext is unexpectedly menacing. So it is Woody to the rescue.
The seemingly jolly teddy bear Lotso (folksy charming Ned Beatty) is so off. We get the creepiness factor which grows exponentially as the story unfolds. Also his partner is the hideously scary Baby Doll missing an eye. This is kind of a weird throw back to old school Disney movies which routinely and bizarrely incorporated evil narrative elements into children’s stories. Even Lassiter and Stanton’s back story on Lotso doesn’t generate any authentic compassion or sympathy.
The chases are fun, and the story lines about Buzz speaking Spanish are distracting escapist genius. However, all that and the final visually stunning conflict are not required to connect the dots to the point of the story which resonates with everyone. The point seems that as much as Andy loved Woody, Buzz, and company, they loved him back, too. Life continues on, always changing and evolving, and so does love. Unkrich seamlessly threads this in the beginning as Andy’s Mom (solid Laurie Metcalf) is really heartbroken that Andy is all grown up, and starting a new stage in life, as well as herself. She raised Andy to be a good man, and she will always love him. And still there is a sense of loss in this. Unkrich and Lassiter suggest that much the same can be said of Woody and Buzz. You need not fret over their legacy, as well. Andy says of Woody, “He’ll never give up on you ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.” That is also what a loving parent does.
“Toy Story 3” is the state of art in animation. And like all great Pixar movies “Toy Story 3” resonates with great heart and moves us. Whatever, narrative glitches and lively distractions occur in Act 2, Unkrich and Lassiter circle back and touchingly complete this life story. Life continues on– we will always love those dear to us, and that too may be unrecognizable. That’s just life.