Toy Story 3 will make one believe that trilogies can make perfection.
And while I'm sure there'll be a few out there willing to make this curmudgeon eat a little crow for that slice of hyperbole, but I can't really find a more subtly accurate description for Lee Unkrich's fitting swan song to PIXAR's signature franchise. But more than that, it was a franchise borne from a most unlikely milestone. 1995's Toy Story was the now-legendary studio's claim to fame, and a more than brilliant means to tap an entire cross-section of generations by way of a most universal premise. To imagine a world populated by sentient toys and their lives unbeknownst to their owners is still by and large a stroke of conceptual genius brought to life by then PIXAR pioneer, John Lasseter. And having seen all of these films in their opening weekends, it is no secret that more than a PIXAR fan, I'm a huge Toy Story lover.
So seeing how TS3 ranks alongside its predecessors prior to seeing it, I must admit to being more than a little suspicious. Since Disney acquired PIXAR after years of relative independence, it was at a point when the studio's output began to waver a little for me. The thought that they had suddenly begun to go back on their promise of not being "in the sequel business" hurt a little of my respect. Wall-E & Up! Notwthstanding, there was something brewing within the ranks that made me concerned that the very announcement of a third Toy Story film was something to be feared. How does one even consider topping two terrific family films that helped break the mold for modern fare & introduced the world to the possibilities of fully digital cinema? After the thematic upgrade of the second film, it only felt natural that the world of Andy(John Morris)'s toys would continue on without another film. And adding ten years of film trend evolution, it almost seemed destined to be little more than one last cash grab before the new PIXAR is to become something a little less cavalier, and closer in tone to ever safe Dreamworks.
Thankfully, none of this has come to pass, and the film is a beautiful summation of not only the film series itself, but a bold allegory for a world changing. From the ashes of the "look at what we've wrought" darkness of Wall-E, Toy Story 3 handles both the sorrows and joys of letting go.
Transition is all over this film.
From the central plot involving a now 17 year old Andy's transitioning into college, and the reaction of his childhood toys now negected in a sealed toy box, possibly awaiting a lifetime in the attic. (or worse, the landfill) What in many ways seems to be the skeleton of a typical Toy Story film is cleverly twisted into an exciting and at times emotionally punishing mediation on a world divided by the simplest of mistakes.
And that's all it is...a mistake.
The film also considers opening the canvas toward new colors of thought, doing away with even ideas that perhaps even the show's creators hadn't considered before. So that in the end, it feels as if the minds at PIXAR are looking to embrace ideas once foreign to them in hopes of inspiring themselves.
So even more than letting go...The film is embracing new worlds of possibility.
Whether we are following Woody as he has been chosen to be the only toy to accompany Andy in his dorm, or Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, The Potatoheads, Rex & Ham, as they have been donated to a deceptively inviting day care center, (With the attraction of children to play with too powerful to resist) the film stretches the original "lost-toys on a mission home" premise to its most logical conclusion.
When home is a person who is leaving, then where is home anyway? The invisible bond between us and those that granted us warmth in quiet times & great freedom of imagination is rekindled with an added dash of the bittersweet that comes with new chapters in life.
And yet it's the bonds that we have grown to have with these characters that help deliver some unexpectedly potent scenes mixed within the already proven action acumen. In Toy Story 3, the action is as great as ever, but it is the drama of the larger dramatic questions that give it it's juice.
Pitch-perfect performances all around from the original cast, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, & even great turns by Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, as well as a returning Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, & Jodi Benson. Also an affecting as hell final score by series regular, Randy Newman takes fulll advantage of the wrap-up proceedings leading to a most impressive of curtain calls.
So many great moments that would be a waste to spoil for anyone. All I can use to best wrap this post up is to posit what it is that most impressed me aside from the already spectacular package brought on by Unkrich, Lassiter & folks...
I love that we see the ultimate expression of how division happens, usually at the hands of someone who while under most circumstances seems like a pretty on the level person, creating an environment of fear & neglect in order to stave off the hurt of abandonment. This has been hinted at before, most notably in 2, but never this clearly. What could easily pass for a tale for our current global situation in metamorphosis, the film followed a new PIXAR short titled Day & Night, which also beautifully illustrates the potential change we all have within. Change is never that far away, and if there is anything that can clock those changes best from our collective childhoods..it's the things that we have trouble imagining living without.