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Movies for Grownups

Toy Story 3

Woody and Buzz's latest adventure ends the trilogy on a perfect note.

Toy Story 3

— Buena Vista Pictures/Everett Collection


Toy Story 3 (G)

En español  |  Catching up with old friends is always a treat. When those old friends are named cowboy Woody and Buzz Lightyear, it’s one of the best things that can happen. Ever.

With Toy Story 3, Disney/Pixar has created a sequel that wisely doesn’t try to compete with the two earlier installments (Bigger! Louder! Toy-er!). Instead, the third film has very much the feel of the final installment of a trilogy, almost as if the adventures that unfold and the lessons learned were envisioned way back when the first Toy Story film was created 15 years ago.

In the Toy Story universe, the years have passed in real time since we last visited Andy’s bedroom 11 years ago. Now Andy (voiced, in a nice touch, by 25-year-old John Morris, who has always been Andy) is heading off to college, and his toys are fretting about what is to become of them. As always in a Pixar film, the nuances of the central dilemma are spread among all the characters. Andy, on the cusp of adulthood, is torn over parting with the towering figures of his childhood—most notably Woody and Buzz. His mom (Laurie Metcalf) seems to be coping with the departure of her oldest child by clearing her home of childish things. Even when we shift to the day care center to which the toys find themselves exiled, one of the new characters, a big huggable bear voiced by Ned Beatty, turns out to be emotionally scarred by the inevitable rejection that comes with age, especially among toys. This is profound, grownup stuff, and I’d venture to say only the geniuses at Pixar would dream of trying to fold such themes into animated entertainment. And only they could build around them such a funny, human, delightful film. (Resigned to being abandoned by their owner, the toy pig [John Ratzenberger] sighs to the others, “Come on, let’s see how much we’re going for on eBay.”)

For its last two movies, Disney/Pixar took some mighty big chances in featuring a virtually speechless character (Wall-E) and a cranky septuagenarian (Up)—and although both those films became instant classics, it’s nice to see the Pixar gang settle back into their comfort zone with Toy Story 3. We’re not transported to any new worlds here; despite 15 years of advances in computer animation, Andy’s room is still instantly recognizable, and the characters are still endearingly retro (Barbie and Ken, who strike up a romantic connection, walk with stiff-legged, knee-less authenticity). Purists will argue over the addition of so many new characters—my favorite is Chatter Telephone, the classic Fisher-Price tot toy, whose painted smile belies a street-smart informer. And I miss Bo Peep, Woody’s old girlfriend, who has conveniently been sold at a yard sale, heading off a continued triangle involving her, Woody, and Jessie the Cowgirl.

As he did for the first two installments, Randy Newman wrote a lush, evocative score for Toy Story 3. The film’s trailers feature a lovely, sad song, “Losing You,” from his latest album Harps and Angels—a song that perfectly captured the film’s bittersweet subtext. Unfortunately, that song isn’t in the film itself, which features a peppy closing Newman track that befits the happy ending, I guess. But those of us who’ve supposedly put childish things behind us will leave Toy Story 3 sensing the pangs of time passing; of joyful memories and nagging loneliness for toys long gone.


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