Dir. Lee Unkrich. USA. 2010.

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The toys are back in town. Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy's collection return to the big screen in pristine Disney Digital 3D.
After an opening that consists of a blitzkreig of genres from western train chase to science fiction to gripping action between the stand out characters before pulling back to appear as the imagination of Andy in his bedroom. The opening gets your attention and insists that this will be another milestone event, fast forward several years and the toys are gathering dust in a chest whilst Andy is getting ready to leave for college. He has outgrown the toys, and they need to be placed in the attic ('With the Christmas toys, come on, they are a good laugh right?') or given away to charity.
The toys believe that is now time to move on except Woody who still believes Andy will keep them (Andy does think of taking Woody as a college mascot), but following a mix up the gang get carted off to Sunnyside Day Care - a utopian climate where the toys are promised to be played with forever by a constant conveyor belt of children who never grow old.  Woody believes something is up and whilst he attempts to escape he gets taken in by Bonnie, a child of one of the Day Care workers who inherites Woody in her theatrical troupe at home with some new characters, Mr. Pricklepant (Timothy Dalton - on fine thespian bashing form) and Trixie (a computer literate cutie). 
Whilst there is this narrative thread, Buzz who is the new leader in Woody's absence asks Lotso Bear (Ned Beatty) if the gang can be promoted from the cruel toddlers to the more controlled 8-10 year olds. However, following the initial welcome by Lotso and Ken (Michael Keaton), yes Barbie's Ken, the veil is pulled back to show Sunnyside as anything but and Lotso rules the roost with an iron fist - once you are in, you cannot leave.  And so the film becomes a prison escape film - hence the film's tagline, 'The Great Escape'.
This is the first 'Toy Story' since John Lasseter/Pixar took over the Disney animation output and the film much in the tradition of the original golden age, harks back to those films with the scary moments of darkness that infiltrates on the normal generic sunny disposition of Disney output. The scary enforcer Big Baby, a Frankenstein creation reminds of the cruel toys in the first 'Toy Story' that belonged to Sid whilst the mad watching monkey and the awful aural bolt that comes with it reminds of Snow White's run into the scary forest or when Pinocchio's naughty friends start turning into donkeys.
The introduction of a transformed Buzz brings hilarity again but the team must escape this Alcatraz whilst proving to other toys especially Lotso that children can love toys continually without a fear of being replaced.
Oddly and most movingly, the film is a tale of mortality, an acceptance of ageing and a failing longevity - lets not forget that adults inhibit the toys, who must look after the children - much like parents who cannot play with children forever. This acceptance that the end is nigh; is most apparent when the toys come close to destruction in a wasteland armageddon in a landfill.  Buzz reaches for Woody's hand you think to save him and pull him to safety, but instead it is a moment of pure sentiment - all the toys reach out to each other to be together and face the moment of truth together as a family unit. It is the first of many goose pimple moments in quite an emotional film.
Knowing that Andy has decided to take the toys back to Sunnyside, Woody fools Andy into taking the toys to meet Bonnie. And there she is sitting behind the white picket fence playing with her troupe. Andy knows the Mum and introduces the gang - Rex, Slinky, Mr & Mrs. Potato Head, Aliens - to her and the scene is one of those scenes that would not appear in other movies - real life or animation. It slows the pace right down, and it involves Andy reintroducing the characters to Bonnie, characters we know. But it is deliberate to a point that Pixar are using Bonnie as a new demographic and audience, these characters are new icons to youngsters who have not seen a Toy Story film in a multiplex. It has been 12 years since Toy Story 3.  But maybe by having the gang look after a 6 year old girl; it gives the characters firstly, a new lease of life; the possibility of storylines are endless depending upon your imagination - and that is where the film ends. Imagination (at Pixar) knows no boundaries, and they have not said this is the end of the line for the Toy Story brand.
A film that can make you laugh, cry, reminisce and think is rare even for animation. But Pixar have pushed the envelope again and come up trumps for this year. I have seen 'How to Train Your Dragon' and in comparison to this, it is not fair to compare. Dreamworks do their thing and Pixar just out do it everytime.
Is there a better word than 'highly recommended' if so then use it for Toy Story 3. One of the best films of this year.
Jamie Garwood

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