"Let's see how much we're going for on Ebay."
With this particularly bad summer of film that we've all be subjected to, let's all just take a deep breath and thank our stars for TOY STORY 3. It's almost impossible to have a sure thing in the Hollywood, but year after year, film after film, Pixar continues to hit balls out of the park.
The company's greatest attribute is telling stories that one one else thinks about--while at the same time connecting us to the characters on an insanely personal level. TS3 begins with a fantastic action sequence stemming from the imagination of Andy--the boy owner of Woody the Cowboy, Buzz Lightyear the Space Ranger and co. Next, we are caught up to the present, through a montage of video footage that illustrates just how much the toys mean to him. Familiar memories like the mother measuring Andy--a new line on the door frame, while Andy in turn marks Woody--a pointless endeavor if there ever was one. Still, it's these lengths that Andy--and on a grander scale, Pixar, go to to demonstrate their dedication to what they love.
TS3 follows the same winning formula as its predecessors: the toys, led by Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) have to overcome obstacles to find their way back home, and to Andy. In the third installment, Andy is now eighteen years old, and heading to college. Mistakingly, his old favorites--save for Woody--are sent to the literal curb, which sets off a series of events, culminating in them all taking up shop at Sunnyside Daycare. There, our heroes meet the current inhabitants of Sunnyside, filled with fun-loving names: Big Baby, Twitch, Stretch, Chunk, and an ascot wearing Ken doll (a hilarious Michael Keaton); all of whom are led by the sinister, yet strawberry smelling Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty).
Of course, saying TS3 is simply a film about toys, is like saying WALL-E was just just about trash-compacting robots; there are underlying themes that run throughout. TS3 is about loss. The loss of one's youth, the loss of friends, the loss of possessions. Andy is older now and moving on. While packing for college, he erroneously calls his toys junk. This is overheard by his miniature friends, and rightfully so, they are devastated. As Woody puts it, their sole purpose is to help Andy, and they wonder why their owner fails to return the sentiment. Some memorable characters from the first two films are noticeably absent here. Not a lot of time is spent on this, but the look on Woody's face when it's explained that Wheezy, and especially Bo Peep were sold on the front lawn is one of hurt and painful regret.
Through cinematic history, you can count the successful trilogies on one hand, but the TOY STORY franchise must be added now. It's unique to experience a film where you find yourself smiling at the opening scene, and it stays on your face long after the credits have rolled. The characters, scenes, and score evoke laughter, tears, and some genuine scares. The final sequences delightfully mirror the opening ones from TS1, perhaps hinting at this being the final chapter of the franchise. I for one would welcome more tales--and a window is slightly left ajar for the possibility. At the same time, it ends the way it should: with all of us wanting more. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some Ninja Turtles action figures calling my name.