The third in Pixar’s Toy Story animated pictures, Toy Story 3 (available for viewing in 3D), is a treat for the family. Beginning and staying with an exciting and extended sense of play (this Disney movie’s main theme), Andy’s toys fret about their future as the 17-year-old packs his stuff for college.
The familiar characters are all here, led by Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) and Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), and the 3D is fine if that’s your thing, though, as with Tim Burton’s Disney picture, Alice in Wonderland, the technology doesn’t make the movie (and the glasses are heavy on the bridge of the nose, as Chicago film critic Roger Ebert observed earlier this year). Andy gets a bit more screen time (apparently, he is an artist) and when his box of toys winds up at a day care center rather than in the attic, the toys break as usual from Woody’s loyalty to Andy and insist that it’s time to let go since, as they believe, they are no longer valued.
One of the enjoyable aspects of Toy Story, and this is a Pixar quality born of John Lasseter and Steve Jobs, is a reverence for material possessions, contrary to those who denounce materialism and the concept of ownership, as inherently valuable to the individual owner (note the former’s worship of cars and the latter’s brilliant creation of things that improve our lives in Apple’s fabulous products). Toy Story 3 does not disappoint in upholding the ownership of toys and, in fact, when a counterfeit capitalist (Ned Beatty) shows up at day care praising individual initiative but seeking “the good of the community”, the toys get another lesson in the dangers of collectivism.
Woody is a lone voice of reason, as usual, reminding himself to “think, think,” and leading by example in showing the toys (Jessie, Bullseye, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm, Slinky) the difference between a team of individuals and a group ruled by a dictator. Even Mattel’s Barbie (Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid) goes rogue, making a short speech about having the consent of the governed. Mostly, TS3 is hilarious and fun, adding a classic Fisher-Price toy, Barbie’s Ken (Michael Keaton), who has to choose between self-absorption and self-interest, and the delightful wit and humor in Michael Arndt’s (Little Miss Sunshine) screenplay.
Besides the running gag that the day care center is like a prison, there are peppered, veiled references to The Shawshank Redemption (a character voiced by Bud Luckey is a hoot) and even Saving Private Ryan‘s lesson that undeservedly forgiving an enemy soldier is a huge mistake. Toy Story 3 is not as new and fresh as the 1995 original. But it delivers the same clever, wholesome family entertainment of its predecessors and, in a toddler character named Bonnie, who represents the child at play and, in this context, man at his best, TS3 reminds us dearly and richly that having things, owning things, and “being played with”, matters very much indeed.