Property The Daily Gamecock
For every second of its runtime, “Toy Story 3” elicits a feeling of reunion with a group of friends from another era to reminisce on a bygone era. That era may be childhood, but Pixar’s latest triumph stirs to the core a sense of youthful imagination. It awakens in the spectator a desire to make-believe, to wholly surrender to the realms of the imagination.
When the animation titan launched its near-perfect feature film resume with “Toy Story” in 1995, it felt — even to the eyes of a very youthful viewer — like a revolution, a stunning creative achievement that was destined to push animation into a new plateau.
While the studio and its core creative personnel have moved on to projects arguably more audacious and more complex — “Wall-E,” “The Incredibles,” “Up” — they remain, with each film, committed to the wide-eyed possibilities of the world and unfailingly devoted to how animation can capture new sights.
“Toy Story 3” then succeeds almost because of all the movies that have come since it, and strikes repeated gold for the deft simplicity of its story, the kind of universality that can connect audiences of all demographics. It’s not to imagine toy-owner Andy, now 17 and on his way to college, as a stand-in for the franchise’s original creators having moved on from their original creation, they nonetheless return with added maturity and experience for one more round of playtime.
With returning voice acting from Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack, the oddball gang of toys are accidentally donated to a daycare center where the utopian promise of never-ending playtime is not quite what it seems. Expanding the story to the daycare center gives animators the opportunity to devise rich environments and create at least a dozen fantastic new toys, featuring the voice work of such talent as Michael Keaton and Ned Beatty. Every richly-colored, sumptuously-designed shot feels melded with palpable care.
The screenplay comes courtesy of Oscar winner Michael Arndt, of “Little Miss Sunshine,” and it’s not hard to see why Arndt was a perfect choice — his gift for writing offbeat communities displaced in new environments comes through clearly as he continually cuts to the core of each character.
“Toy Story 3” packs plenty of humor, drawing on the traits and conventions established in the previous two films and nudging them slightly in new directions through both dialogue and physical interaction.
And yet, for all its bursting creativity, its manic blend of fish-out-of-water and “great escape” jailbreak genres, it’s the unexpected emotion that gives the film its power. More than just a serviceable rehash of character humor and familiar situations, “Toy Story 3” creeps in its themes of maturity and of growing up with such surprising and effective swiftness.
It is an absolute triumph of both an individual film and a sequel because it enhances and expands the story and landscape of its franchise in honest directions. As a coda to one of the most imaginative trilogies of the last twenty years from one of the best group of producers and directors working today, it’s a magnificent and emotionally satisfying masterpiece.
In its final moments, it becomes clear that no matter how old we may get, we can always rely on Pixar to give us that “one more play” we all long for, and remind us that being a kid doesn’t end just because we grow up.