It is no accident that Toy Story 3 is smashing box office records all over the globe right now, despite its daring dearth of vampire action. It is, quite simply, a brilliant piece of filmmaking – at the cutting edge of animation and 3D film techniques, with a storyline that’s guaranteed to have you rushing back home to dig up your old toys and give them a hug.
The premise is one that both audiences – kids and their parents – can identify with. Andy is all grown up now, and for toys, that means one of three increasingly dire fates; the attic, the donation box or the trash. Stalwart hero and all-round team player Woody the Cowboy (Tom Hanks) refuses to lose faith in his owner, even when he stuffs his comrades in an attic-bound trash bag which, naturally, doesn’t end up where it’s supposed to.
The final goodbye to old inanimate friends is hugely resonant to anyone with a secret attachment to their old toys, and the resulting plot – which sees the toys end up in a day-care centre, ripped to shreds by uncaring toddlers and controlled by a militant strawberry smelling bear with some severe psychological abandonment issues – will make you wonder if in fact donation wasn’t crueller than keeping them in a box in the attic for twenty years.
The characters have been so well established in all their delightful minutiae in the first two films that their little quirks and foibles – in particular Rex’s (Wallace Shawn) anxiety complex – hardly make an appearance here. You won’t miss them much though, because in their place is a genius Great Escape-esque plot that’s as gripping and intricate as any Hollywood prison breakout sequence, as the toys bring to life the true essence of family and teamwork, classic Disney-style, as they try to break out of the Abu-Graib-like prison that is the day-care centre.
There’s something terribly real about this scenario, the final goodbye (presumably) to Buzz (Tim Allen), Woody and the gang, that runs alongside the plot that sees Andy become a thing of the past, with the future uncertain, scary and very immediate. And while the double layered humour is still there in spades (particularly entertaining is a discarded Barbie’s blossoming relationship with the film’s breakout star, the gayest Ken imaginable, played with delicious campness by Michael Keaton) the fear factor has jumped up several notches. There’s one scene at the end, involving a landfill, a furnace, and a throat-closing, tear-jerking moment of true friendship that is definitely not suitable for children.
Toy Story 3 is a hugely enjoyable, seamless blend of genres. Where else will you get a Mr Potato Head trying to manipulate his new fajita body while battling a pigeon, or hear Barbie proclaim that “authority should arise from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force!”. But it’s also a mobster film, a daring escape thriller, with some beautifully designed action sequences (though not enough to warrant 3D) and a genuinely emotional finale? Pure cinematic gold.