There were some - me among them - who were sort of disappointed at the news that Pixar was going back to the well for Toy Story 3. Their original movies have been some of the best films of the last decade, animated or not, so it seemed like sort of a shallow cash grab to revisit the franchise that made them famous. Take the cautionary example of the Shrek films - each one of those is worse and worse. So is Toy Story 3 worth seeing, even if you don't have a rugrat to take along?
I walked out of Toy Story 3 amazed, impressed, and utterly gratified. It's hard for me to say this, but everything that made Up and Wall-E great is on full display here. Pixar, like virtually no other studio at work today, really understands how humans work, and they apply that deep understanding to their movies in challenging, charming and subtle ways. The plot of Toy Story 3 is simple - Andy is grown up and heading off to college. He puts the toys in the attic, with the exception of Woody who he still has a sentimental attachment to, but due to a snafu they end up getting carted off to a daycare cum prison, lorded over by a teddy bear voiced by Ned Beatty. Of course, Woody sets off on an adventure to be reunited with Andy. And that's where all his troubles begin.
The plot takes us around the neighborhood we've grown accustomed to, detouring into Great Escape territory when the toys contend with the hilarious power structure at the daycare, and ending up in a climax at the town dump that's remarkable for the level of pathos it conjures. It's a great ride, and one that seems over too quickly.
Toy Story 3 is quite funny, with a clever plot structure that will keep short attention span kids glued to the screen while engaging grown-ups. Bereft of obnoxious pop culture references and lowbrow jokes, it's a clever, intelligent movie that is legitimately entertaining for just about everybody. And it carries a strong, if subtle message - we can love our childhood,but we need to let go of the material things that define it.