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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 18, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 25
Toy Story 3
a timeless adventure
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Toy Story 3
a timeless adventure

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Toy Story 3 Opening June 18

I think we've all had that one toy we can never forget. For me, it was a stuffed bear unoriginally named "Teddy." I adored the teeny-weeny bundle of brown fluff, and even though as the years went by he came to be missing an eye and was sporting more than his share of needle and thread scars, thanks to my Mom's quick-fix patching, I kept and cherished that little animal for more years than I care to count.

With the sensational Toy Story 3, Pixar has done the impossible. Not only have they crafted a tale (thanks in large part to Little Miss Sunshine scribe Michael Arndt) that's every bit as everlasting as the two previous motion pictures, they've woven a parable about youth, young adulthood, and aging that's spectacular. These characters, this story, has matured at arguably the same rate as each installment has hit theatres, and the level of insight to be found borders on breathtaking.

As things begin, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen), and the gang are facing an uncertain future. Their owner, Andy (voiced by John Morris), is days away from leaving for college, and whether or not he's going to be taking any of his remaining toys along with him or put them into storage in the attic is still uncertain.

From there starts an adventure that goes from daycare to the playground, from the heat of a furnace to the warmth of a child's bedroom, and each of our heroes goes on a journey that takes them from the brink of an unspeakable ending back to the bright potential of a new beginning. More than that, they make it together, learning once and for all that family can be made out of choice and isn't always based on which manufacturer you were mass-produced by.

Just on a surface level, Pixar and director Lee Unkrich (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2) get so much right there's almost nothing for me to point out negatively. New characters like Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton) and a big pink teddy bear named Lotso (voiced by Ned Beatty) are fine additions to the series, while the central The Great Escape narrative is positively thrilling for both young and old alike. The old characters continue to evolve, grow, and change, their relationships with one another every bit as electric, complex and intricate as those of any flesh and blood human being.

But Arndt's script digs even deeper than that. Sure it's fun and at times frivolous, featuring moments of outright silliness, but it is also an emotional maelstrom for toy and owner alike. While Andy has always been sort of an enigmatic figure in the previous two chapters of this tale, here his wants and needs are as important as those of the toys he owns. His decisions are as key as theirs, and the film's penultimate moments combine one with the other in a way that is both delightfully surreal and touchingly poignant.

Sure, there are some magnificently animated set pieces - like the group's attempts to escape from a garbage dump incinerator or Woody's first glimpses of a little girl's toy-filled bedroom - but at this point, as far as Pixar is concerned, those are to be expected. What wasn't expected is that the studio could elevate the sequel to such great heights, and while films like The Incredibles, Up, Ratatouille and WALLoE have already set an absurdly lofty bar, the fact Pixar gets there once again by returning to a cast of characters who started this CG animated love fest in the first place is still something of a surprise.

The biggest glory of Toy Story 3 is how it made me feel when all was said and done. Not only do the filmmakers bring things full circle, they do it in a way that is so completely satisfying it's ridiculous not to come away impressed. The film brought honestly earned tears to my eyes, and the finale is so warm and wonderful that it might just be the year's most endearing moment.

More than that, though, Pixar and company made me remember what it was like to be a kid and to hold my own toys with the same all-encompassing unconditional love that Andy shares with his. They made me recollect on what it was like to let go of my youth and pass into adulthood, got me to embrace who I was as a child, and how those youthful decisions led me to where I am today. Toy Story 3 is as timeless as it is timely, and for kids of all ages and for the adults who still remember what it was to be young, this is one movie, one sequel, everyone is bound to adore.

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