[2012 Flash Forward - This one was added by reader request, but I still completely agree with everything in this review and if you haven't seen this movie yet. Tsk tsk. Fix that this weekend]
From the opening short right through the end credits, Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” is a as close to moviemaking perfection as you could possibly ask for and easily stands as not just the summer’s best film, but an easy favorite for the year’s best as well.
And no matter how many over serious and haughty dramas come out just in time to take advantage of voter’s short attention spans come during the end of the year voting season, none will keep a smile so consistently on their faces save the occasional moments they’re dabbing their eyes or holding back tears as “Toy Story 3.”
Make no mistake about it — “Toy Story 3” is a testament to all that’s good with movies. The power of boundless imagination and technology able to match that vision; a story so compelling that children and adults will get swept away and an overall blissful spirit of fun and wonder that makes every minute a delight and Pixar’s continued brilliance.
Even the short “Day & Night,” before the main attraction is packed with more charming and is more thought-provoking in its six-minute run time than some full-length features, making for a perfectly complimentary lead-in.
“Toy Story” kicks off in a familiar manner as we’re lost in Andy’s imagination during playtime. His toys, led by Woody the cowboy (voiced by Tom Hanks) and spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) are on another wild adventure trying to stop the Potato Heads who’ve just robbed a bank and subsequently encounter pigs piloting spaceships, dinosaurs and aliens.
It’s another look at the endlessly wondrous imagination of a child, but we quickly learn that Andy’s not so little anymore and we’ve just taken a ride down memory lane via home video. Andy is on his way to college and as he’s moving out. Before that he’s got one more important decision —what to do with his old, dusty toys. After all, it’s not like he’s played with them in awhile — a fact that’s frustrated all the toys but Woody, who holds out hope that Andy will one day need his longtime pals, if not for him, then his children. Of all his toys, Andy decides to bring Woody with him to college and puts the others in a trash bag to go into the attic.
After a mix-up, Andy’s mom mistakenly takes Andy’s toys to Sunnyside, a day care center. The gang is enthusiastically greeted by the Sunnyside toys, including the doll baby Big Baby, the scene-stealing and well-accessorized Ken (Michael Keaton) and their leader, Lotso (Ned Beatty), a Care Bears-style teddy bear, who promises that at Sunnyside they’ll have plenty of kids to play with them and never feel lonely and unloved again. Feeling betrayed by Andy, Buzz and company are quick to embrace their new surroundings, despite Woody’s pleas that they return back to Andy’s.
Buzz and company quickly discover that Sunnyside is not as pleasant as they thought and as they’re forced to entertain the toddlers, who have no idea how to treat toys with care, while Lotso and his inner circle are handled by older children. When the gang dares to question how Lotso runs the place, he explains they’re going to go along with his rules or get roughed up by Big Baby and locked up in storage bins. Woody meanwhile, finds himself at the home of a young girl who plays with her toys like Andy used to play with him and his pals. And while he could enjoy this new life, once he learns how terrible Sunnyside is, Woody hatches a scheme to rescue his friends and get them back home.
Screenwriter Michael Arndt (the recently announced writer for “Star Wars: Episode 7″) peppers the film with numerous scenes that will make you laugh, smile and the final scene will have you either holding back tears or reaching for Kleenex. As with many Pixar films, “Toy Story 3” allows not just for an entertaining diversion for families, but opportunities for discussion on topics such as loyalty, giving and forgiveness.
Every scene is lovingly crafted and the animation is spectacular (note the stilted walk of Barbie and Ken to simulate how their toy bodies would really move) with very expressive character designs and backgrounds designed in a way to make the most use out of the 3D format instead of a cheap conversion to bring in a few more dollars.
With just as much action as “Iron Man 2” and “The A-Team,” more laughs than “Shrek Forever After” and more heart than “The Karate Kid,” “Toy Story 3” stands atop the summer blockbusters as the film to beat this year.