Sequel overload is something that happens when Hollywood decides to beat a dead horse to the extent that an equine zombie arises and begins running unbridled and amok. This happened to Jason and to Freddie, to the Predator and the Alien, and is an ongoing festering sore with Final Destination, and, of course, SAW! That's why it's refreshing to report the good news when a well thought out sequel to an established storyline comes along.
Toy Story 3 not only lives up to the legacy of its predecessors, but surpasses them, as this time it's not just about Andy's toys, but about Andy, and much more! I, for one, thought that Toy Story 2 was okay, but a bit of a rehash of the original Toy Story, whereas here we evolve to a part of the story where there is something else of substance to truly address: holding on to childhood, growing up, and a toy's place in life.
We find our intrepid band of toy buddies now down to a core group. Gone are Bo Peep and Mr. Spell, but still with us are the Potato Heads, the Piggy Bank, and the Slinky Dog, with Barbie joining the group, a castaway from Andy's younger sister's toy collection. Of course Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) are back, as Andy is all grown up and heading off to college.
When most of the toys are accidentally thrown out, and Woody takes off to rescue them, they all end up at a day care center called: Sunnyside.
Sunnyside is ruled by a maniacal Teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty), that uses new toys entering the center as toddler fodder for a play room where younger kids, that are really rough on toys, gather to break them with the force of a hurricane in the gulf coast.
Meanwhile, Barbie meets Ken and begins to share his dream house, Woody, after trying to explain to the others that Andy didn't mean to throw them out, ends up with a sweet little girl that is exactly the kind of inventive, playful, toy lover Andy used to be, and Buzz, discovering the dark designs of Lotso towards new toys at Sunnyside, is switched back to demo mode, wiping out all memory of his past and his friends.
Although I found Toy Story 3 a fantastic send off to a great series with a satisfying and beautiful ending that got me misty-eyed and totally involved, be advised, this Toy Story tends to get darker and more ominous towards the end than any of the previous films and younger children might get frightened or upset by how close our heroes come to the precipice before salvation.
Also be forewarned that this film is hysterical in spots, like when Buzz gets switched to Spanish mode and does a tango with Jesse, and I couldn't stop laughing at a sequence involving "Mr. Tortilla Head."
Voice characterizations are, as always, first rate, with Don Rickles' Mr. Potato Head, Michael Keaton's Ken doll, and John Morris' grown up Andy of particular note.
Possessing a heart of wonder and a soul of inspiration, I can wholeheartedly recommend this film to old and young alike. Charming and funny, but with a deeper message about growing up and the changes involved in that process, Toy Story 3 is without a doubt one of the best films of the summer, so good in fact that (if they have an another terrific story to tell) I wouldn't mind seeing a Toy Story 4!