(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Toy Story 3 (2010)
One Sentence Plot Summary: The toys have been relegated to a box and possible attic sentence, and in their fear, they put their trust in a fascist teddy bear who manipulates and imprisons; only rising up and revolution can save the toys from certain doom.
Why It’s on the List: There’s no possible Pixar was actually going to send the toys to certain doom in act three. A kids’ movie and franchise just wouldn’t do it, yet they got me for a half second. In one of the most emotional movies Pixar has ever made, Andy grows up and moves on from the toys he doesn’t know are sentient, and the toys, especially Woody, have to find a new way in the world. Every time a new sequel in the Toy Story franchise was announced, there was a certain amount of trepidation. The first one was perfect. The second one was beloved. How could they possibly achieve the same level of success 11 years later.
I think what makes this franchise so artistically successful is that they keep up themes that have been brought up in previous films. They expand on these themes, introduce new and interesting characters. Each movie feels different and not like a retread. The setting always feel different. They do manage to keep up some running gags. Buzz once again gets to behave like an aloof jackass after being returned to demo mode. Woody is the leader who has to keep the increasingly small group together. Jessie is suffering from PTSD every time she gets put into a box. Then there’s the claw. Oh the claw. It was introduced as a side gag in the first one. We see different versions of the same aliens return in the second one. Then in the third one…the claw is what saves the toys from impending doom. That scene is a wallop, and then Andy plays with the toys one more time with Bonnie before leaving college.
The last half hour is the best the franchise has ever been. There are aspects that don’t work or at least not as well. I like Lotso’s backstory* but he came across as the kind of antagonist who didn’t have as much depth as so many others. The daycare setting isn’t built as well, and the film treats the toddlers rather harshly.
On a sidenote, I love Michael Keaton as Ken. He brings such a strange energy to this role and the scenes with Barbie work surprisingly well. I wish we could get a limited run spin-off Disney Plus series with them.
*Ned Beatty doing the voiceover was an uncharacteristic but amazing choice.
*A number of individuals panicking and falling into the arms of a fascist? Sound familiar?
Best Performance: The temptation is to give it to Michael Keaton because of how funny he is in interacting with Jodi Benson’s Barbie. It’s wild to think that Batman and The Little Mermaid played love interests over 20 years after their enormous 1989. Anyway, the real MVP is Tom Hanks. His voice work in all three movies has been stellar quite frankly, and I saved this award for the third film. Tom Hanks is a national treasure whose presence is ubiquitous as being just that, not necessarily as one of our great actors. This entire series is proof of his greatness, and the fact that Woody has to play the full range of emotions, including an emotional good bye, is quite a sight to see.
Best Quote: So long… partner. -Woody
Is there a sequel? There is one more film in this series that has gotten some mixed feedback. I think the fourth one is still very good but not good enough for this list.