A phenomenal third installment to what has now become one of the best trilogies in recent memory. Many people questioned whether or not Toy Story necessarily needed a second sequel, but the folks at Pixar have proven once again that they are consistently capable of great filmmaking and that every good story deserves... a fitting ending. John Lasseter, the director of the first two, hands over his directorial duties to Lee Unkrich who is not unfamiliar with the world of Toy Story. Coming from his experiences as an editor on the first two installments as well as a co-director on Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo, Unkrich has the necessary chops to give all these beloved toy characters a bit of something more.
The character arcs for Woody, Buzz, and even their owner Andy have reached some nice conclusions, and many of the supporting toys have gotten their own piece of the adventure. I completely agree with many critics who see parallels between this film and (humorously) Cool Hand Luke, but unlike the latter, this film discusses numerous themes concerning obsolescence, unity, and the human concept of moving on. Most stories that delve into this feature far older characters, so it is remarkable to see a kids film tackle this using toys, teddy bears, and action figures as its subjects for analysis. One also has to point out the opportunities Toy Story 3 has given to older performers like Ned Beatty as Lotso, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Estelle Harris as the Mrs., and Bud Luckey as Chuckles the Clown are, without a doubt, absolutely commendable. We have not seen Ned Beatty in as many recent films, so it is very nice to ‘hear’ him still working and that he was given an opportunity to play such a great character. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, & John Ratzenberger are in fine form as usual, and the additions of Jodi Benson as Barbie, Michael Keaton as Ken (in a hilariously metrosexual interpretation; kudos to Pixar) and even Timothy Dalton as classically trained Mr. Pricklepants were top notch.
This film and its accomplishments are a colossal achievement for Pixar who 15 years ago ushered in a new wave of animation as well as an innovative new form of storytelling. Toy Story 3 is just everyone needed to close the trilogy. It has heart, humor, adventure, imagination, horror, and strong human themes to tell. It has an ending that will satisfy all fans and it even has a beginning that does the same. Happy trails indeed!