- Released Internationally on 18/06/10
- Released in Malta by KRS on 28/07/10
Preview (first published 01/07/10 in VIDA magazine)
The computer animated gem that started it all way back in 1995 is back. After a 1999 sequel that was as brilliant as the original, the host of colourful toy characters have been spending some quality time being bashed about by children all over the world. But since most good franchises come in trilogies, the minds at Pixar have opened the toy chest for a third and (they claim) final adventure. Andy, the much-loved boy who owned Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Potato Head and the rest, is now eighteen, and his mother unceremoniously sends all his toys off packing to a day-care centre, there to be systematically dismembered by a new army of children every day. Our heroes meet a host of new toys there, but Woody for one has no plans to stay put. The excellent voice cast are all back, as is editor and director Lee Unkrich who worked on the previous two films, as well as Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Cars and Monsters Inc.. The screenplay was written by Michael Arndt, who shot to the A-list after writing Little Miss Sunshine.
I hadn't revisited the famous toys of Toy Story since seeing the second film upon release. Yet as soon as this third chapter got underway, a certain feeling of familiarity and affection arose, and I was eager to see what lay in store for these colourful characters. The exhilarating opening sequence offers a welcome change from the bedrooms and streets where we normally see these plastic heroes, and sets the tone for the adventures ahead. A few characters have gone missing, but the usual suspects are all still there, waiting patiently in Andy's toy chest for him to spend some time with them or even glance in their direction. Hardly likely considering he's engrossed in his laptop and upcoming move to college.
No toy gets left behind
The inevitable happens, and we arrive at that point that most mothers love and most others dread – the clearing away of clutter. As Andy prepares to fly the nest, he must decide what to take with him, what to throw away, and what deserves the middle ground of being stored in the attic. These anxious moments are even more tense for the toys in question, and as the garbage truck creeps up the street outside, the toys are faced with a moment of destiny of epic toy proportions. Woody (Tom Hanks) gets some preferential treatment as Andy opts to take him to college, but camaraderie prevails and the toys manage to stick together and avoid the worst.
The action then shifts to Sunnyside day-care centre, where the toys are dumped, but which looks promising with regards to quality playtime spent with children. The horde of toys at Sunnyside are presided over by the cuddly Lots-O'-Huggin' bear, or Lotso for short, who welcomes the new toys warmly but later turns out to have a shady past and resulting character issues. The film then shifts into Great Escape mode, with Woody returning to help mastermind the toys' escape from this bright but terrifying compound. With Lotso's henchmen on the prowl after lights out, Sunnyside isn't somewhere you'd want to stay the night.
Why it works
The film can be summed up as a wonderful escape movie sandwiched between a touching, nostalgic beginning and an emotional ending. Each part of the film works because of our attachment to the toys in question, which is something the minds at Pixar are skilled at developing. Rather than sully the memory of the two previous films, this final outing tops them both and doesn't need to resort to fancy gimmicks to keep things exciting. The final scenes are a master stroke, and complete the story arc in a satisfying way that makes perfect sense once you look back on it.
In the end
Possibly the best animated film of the year so far, although certain dragon trainers offer some stiff resistance. A film that should prove a highlight with children, and that will probably resonate even louder with adults, or at least those who remember the time when they had toys of their own.