To call this film critic-proof is an understatement, but here’s a fact: there really isn’t any way to improve upon Pixar’s pitch perfect ending to their Toy Story saga.
In the conclusion to the trilogy, the toys in Andy’s room have seen their owner grow up from the little boy who played with them daily to a high school graduate ready for college. Woody (Tom Hanks) has already reassured the other toys that Andy will store them in the attic and not throw them away, but Buzz (Tim Allen) sees Woody’s real concern. When an honest mix-up puts the toys in danger, the group goes against Woody and end up donated to a local daycare. While everything seems okay at first, it quickly becomes clear that one bad apple can do far more than ruin the barrel.
There’s a scene in Toy Story 3 set up for a perfect moment of drama. Something bad is about to happen and there’s nothing any of the characters can do about it. What happens afterward is the reason that Pixar animated features have become the benchmark in storytelling. With rich characters audiences happily invest in to share an adventure with, it’s still a wonder that these pixelated figments of imagination can stir not just real emotion but create lasting memories. What else can you say about a G-rated movie featuring talking toys that can illicit actual tears from adults?
It’s difficult to imagine how long it has really been since Buzz Lightyear first intruded onto Woody’s turf, the state-of-the-art battery-powered techno-toy versus the classic pull-string hero of the Old West. While Woody’s still the man in charge and ever loyal to his owner, Buzz has fallen perfectly in as his right-hand man. Listening to the subtle layered conversation of Buzz backing Woody’s play while still reminding him of other possibilities (as well as Woody’s response to it) makes one wonder: do the children in the audience understand that this is better dialogue and story than in any Twilight film? Especially since all those guys actually do is talk?
From the imaginative opening sequence (properly set in a child’s imagination while being rendered by adults with state-of-the-art toys of their own) to the final fate of Andy’s toys, it’s hard to imagine now what a misfire this might have been if Disney had gone ahead with plans to complete it without Pixar. Ending in the only way it could, this really is the bookend to the age of Pixar. While there are more sequels in the pipeline for films such as Cars, Monsters, Inc., and even their work on Tron: Legacy, the real question is, now that all of the original stories that put Pixar on the map have been explored, what can we expect that’s new for the future?
(a four skull recommendation out of four)