When everyone first heard that Toy Story 3 was being made, they were not impressed. "Seriously?" we all thought. "They have two great movies already, there's no way a third is going to live up to them. Why can't they just leave well enough alone?" At what point do we just throw our hands up in the air and accept the fact that the people who make Toy Story will never steer us wrong?
Toy Story 3 opens with a big budget rendition of the battle between Woody and One-Eyed Bart that Andy imagined at the beginning of the first film. It then transitions into a series of home videos of Andy playing with all of his toys. Is it possible to overdose on nostalgia? Because they're certainly making a go of it.
By the way, I am so beyond thrilled that they got the kid who played Andy in the first two films to reprise his role in this one, especially since it would have been so easy for them not to. It showed real respect for the franchise as a whole, to say nothing of the kids (like me) who grew up watching Toy Story. The first film came out when I was about seven years old, and Toy Story 3 came out the year I graduated from college, so in a lot of ways I felt like I grew up with Andy. And having his old voice actor back was like saying hello to an old friend.
The official theme of Toy Story 3 is about letting go (the unofficial theme, in case you were wondering, is Make Audrey Ugly Cry as Much as Possible). The toys have to cope with the fact that Andy is going away to college, and have to prepare themselves for the next stage of a toy's life. Their options fall into three elegant categories: college, attic, or trash.
But ok, it makes my heart hurt to think of all those toys stuck up in the attic. It's like purgatory: yeah, one day Andy might have children and want to pass his toys on to them, but they could just as easily sit up there for 20 years only to get thrown out. Rex and Jessie are definitely not emotionally stable enough to cope with that. And it's also making me feel like a real asshole for all the boxes of toys that are currently languishing in my parent's attic. I'm sorry, 1978 Luke Skywalker action figure missing your lightsaber. Some day your time will come.
In the end, only Woody is selected to go with Andy to college. (Smooth, bro...chicks dig vintage cowboy toys. I'm not even being sarcastic.) The rest of the toys are relegated to the attic, but because Andy's mom just ASSUMES that things in a trash bag are garbage and doesn't check with Andy, things go a bit pear-shaped for them. They end up being OK, but understandably have some abandonment issues, and decide to take their future into their own hands. The toys decide to hop into the Sunnyside Daycare donation box, where they believe that they'll be played with and cared for. Oh, you sweet summer children. You have no idea what those preschoolers are going to do to you.
On the surface, Sunnyside seems like a super awesome retirement home for toys. But, like most retirement homes, it has a dark and seedy underbelly. The whole joint is run by a menacing teddy bear that smells like strawberries, Lotso, and his merry band of thugs, including a giant baby that looks as though it was ripped straight from my very worst childhood nightmares.
Can we just very briefly talk about the prison tats that thing is rocking? Seriously.
Lotso was accidentally lost by his owner (the flashbach of which was actually a pretty sad and emotional scene), and he has chosen to channel his pain into being a jerkface and ruling Sunnyside with an iron fist. When Andy's toys realize that playtime is a horrific and painful experience when executed by twenty or so sugar high toddlers, they understandably want out. Lotso's response? Haha screw you guys, you're trapped, also I'm going to put your best friend and leader (aka Buzz) back on factory settings so he doesn't remember Andy or any of you and he will be your jailer.
Lotso is a gigantic bag of dicks.
Luckily, the gang of toys have clearly seen The Great Escape like a billion times, so they have no difficulty in managing a clever escape once Woody comes back to boost their morale. Unfortunately, their escape plan involves going into a dumpster and ending up on the incineration pile. And also, not to downplay the seriousness of this situation, but I found Mr. Tortilla Head to be disturbing in the extreme.
OK, so here is where the waterworks start coming and pretty much don't stop until the end of the film. The toys are stuck on this conveyor belt that is basically churning towards the fires of hell. They're struggling to run backwards away from the incinerator, but they're just too small and they can't do it. So one by one, they make eye contact with one another, and decide to stop fighting. They take each other's hands, and accept their inevitable death together.
Of course, the alien toys come along at the last minute to save them. Pixar isn't that cruel. But still, JESUS CHRIST.
And then, just when you think everything is going to be fine and you can JUST STOP CRYING, the toys are reunited with Andy, and he makes the grown-up decision to pass them along to Bonnie, a little girl whose mother owns the daycare. While Andy loves his toys, he knows that Bonnie will play with them, and he wants someone else to enjoy them as much as he did. So Andy drives over to Bonnie's house and introduces them all to her. He has one last playtime with his toys, and drives away.
I'M NOT CRYING YOU'RE CRYING.
OK, so clearly I'm a fan of Toy Story 3, no matter how much it tries to hurt me. I think it's a pitch perfect end to the trilogy (yes, I'm aware that Toy Story 4 is happening, but that feels more like a stand alone adventure with characters from Toy Story than a continuation of this story). It serves a respectful tip of the hat to all the kids who were Andy's age and grew up with the franchise, while still being kid-focused enough to create a new generation of fans.
There's one more thing I want to talk about before I continue to cry into my pillow, and that's Sid. WHO HAS A SPECIAL CAMEO IN THIS FILM.
When I originally realized this, I was a little annoyed. I thought that the implication of this is that he was a messed up kid who grew into a burnout adult, when I had really been hoping that they would play with him being a villain only because the story is told through the eyes of the toys. And that in actuality he would be like a super well-adjusted adult, working in some kind of creative field.
But then it was brought to my attention that MAYBE Sid is a garbageman so that he can save the toys that have been thrown out. After all, he knows that they are sentient beings, so it has to do a number on him whenever he sees them ending up in the trash bin. Head canon 100% accepted!