We haven't had a new Toy Story movie since the last century. Can you believe it? Can you?! You can't, you liar. The third installment in the immensely popular Disney/Pixar film has been highly anticipated; the last one came out before I was a legal adult! That's crazy to think about. It was worth the wait.
While not directed by John Lasseter, it found itself in the capable hands of Lee Unkrich (Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo), and is truly epic in its scope, scale, and animation. Where the original Toy Story pioneered the use of this level of computer animation for a full-length film, Toy Story 3 kicks it up a notch. It does have 3D, yes, which is done tactfully and tastefully (adding depth and weight, rather than trying to throw things at the camera), but I don't assume it's essential to the process (as 3D generally isn't "essential"). I had heard rumours that the plot was slightly derivative, and I didn't find that to be the case. It calls back quite strongly to the original movie (almost skipping Toy Story 2 references entirely, with the exception of Jessie and Bullseye), and it was actually nice to see all the main characters back together.
Andy, the little boy, is now a young man. He's 17, and going off to college. He's gotten rid of most of his toys, but has kept the main cast of characters; Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bullseye, Ham (John Ratzenberger), Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles & Estelle Harris), Slinky-Dog, and T-Rex (Wallace Shawn). All the voice actors are back, with the exception of the late, great Jim Varney for obvious reasons (voiced this time around by Blake Clark). The characters have always been wonderfully defined, so they fall back into their old routines without a hitch, and are familiar instantly. Even Andy has the same voice actor, in John Morris, who has grown up with the character.
The plot is somewhat new, but also mixes up several elements of the first two movies. As Andy's going off to college, the toys are afraid they'll be thrown out. Andy wants to take Woody to college with him, and put the other toys in the attic. Andy's mom, however, mistakes the bag of toys for trash, and the toys think they've been rejected. They're donated to a day-care, which is run by Lotso, a strawberry-scented old teddy bear (voiced by Ned Beatty). The toys soon find out that there's more to this daycare than meets the eye, and desperately seek a way to escape and get back to Andy.
The story also focuses somewhat more than usual on the human characters; we get a sense that Andy and his family have been fleshed out in more ways than just their updated appearances. Laurie Metcalf returns as Andy's mom, and Andy himself is shown to feel a strong connection and love for the toys. I had heard rumours that the plot was similar to The Brave Little Toaster, an incredibly melodramatic (and slightly terrible) animated movie about appliances that seek to reunite with their owner (inexplicably a child). I'm not sure why this kid loved his frigging toaster and vacuum cleaner so much, but it's creepy. We know that Andy loves his toys, and it's understandable that he's reluctant to let these go and grow up. I assume that there are a lot of members of the audience bringing their children to this movie, after having seen the first one fifteen years ago. I don't have kids, but in the future, I can definitely imagine showing these movies to them.
The film is honestly frightening in several scenes. It has an intense climax, and a deeply heartwarming and unstoppably tear-jerking ending that fully, aptly, and satisfyingly wraps up the film series. It's the best ending the films could have. I highly recommend that you see this movie, in 3D or in regular ol' 2D. If you have kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, you need to take them along. It's a fantastic family movie, a great ending to a wonderful series, and it's actually a great story, set of characters, music, computer generated effects, it's all over great.
I give the film 5 creepy old strawberry scented evil bear monsters out of five, or five Spanish Buzz Lightears dancing the flamenco or lambada or tango or some such nonsense out of five.