Dir. Lee Unkrich
(2010, G, 103 min)
★ ★ ★ ½
What makes Toy Story 3 so moving is not that it shows our attachment to toys, but that it understands the nature of that attachment. “The child is the father of the man,” said William Wordsworth, and if that’s the case then letting go of our childhoods is like burying a loved one. Our imaginations created fertile worlds for us to inhabit, and our toys inhabited them with us. Eventually we grow up and put away childish things, and in doing so we lose a part of ourselves.
It has been eleven years since the last Toy Story film, and about as long for the characters. The toys themselves haven’t changed, of course; they’ll stay the same as long as their plastic allows. But their owner, Andy, is now seventeen-years-old, well past the age of playing with his action figures, and preparing to leave for college. His mother is overwhelmed that her son is leaving the nest. The toys are overwhelmed too. They’re loyal to their owner, but he’s destined to outgrow them, and they’re destined to be left behind, either in the safety of his family’s attic, or, they fear, out on the curb to be picked up by garbage collectors. Our childhoods miss us when we’re gone.
Most of the film is taken up by a jailbreak storyline. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and company find themselves at the Sunnyside Day Care Center, where they make quick friends of the resident toys before discovering that things are not as they seem. The facility is a place where toys can always be loved by children and never neglected, but not if those age-inappropriate toys get into the hands of demonic toddlers who bash them, throw them, dip them in paint, and scatter their parts and accessories. The toy hierarchy is enforced by a teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty), a fuzzy pink despot with a chip on his shoulder; he’s a dark character with a backstory revealed in a sad flashback that I wish went even deeper.
The material at the day care center is very funny, especially when you play with Buzz Lightyear’s settings. It’s a rollicking, visually delightful adventure — though the 3D, it must be said, doesn’t add much. But the heart of the film is its scenes concerning to toys’ relationship with Andy. I, like Andy, still have a chest full of toys at home it would be difficult to part with. I still remember the worlds I created with them. In a way, they gave me my start as a writer. If we’re lucky, and diligent, our childhoods never really die, but adulthood comes just the same. Toy Story 3 is a bittersweet acknowledgment of that. You can’t hold on too tightly. But you don’t have to let go completely either.