Each of the Toy Story movies seems to improve on its predecessor.
The first one implied, perhaps unintentionally, that a toy’s “real life” takes place when it is not being played with. Playtimes are inconvenient interruptions during which toys must play dead. The negativity of being handled by humans is reinforced by the fact that much more screen time is given to the toys being abused by Sid than being loved by Andy. The argument that the relative absence of Andy is a necessary consequence of these early digital animators’ hesitance to show humans due to technological limitations is belied by the quantity of Sid’s scenes.
The second film provided a mild corrective by criticising the adult pathology of collecting toys without taking them out of the box, and claimed (in word if not deed) that toys are meant to be played with rather than kept pristine. But this assertion was not really backed up with screen time.
This third film has finally paid off the claims of the second film and fully corrected the first movie’s distorted picture of the Double Life of Being a Toy. The opening sequence exquisitely shows us, for the first time in these films (it shocks me that it took 15 years), what toy life is like in the imagination of a child during playtime. The revelation — totally revolutionary for the Toy Story films — is that the adventures toys have when they are being played with far surpass the adventures we have seen them have in their so-called real life when humans aren’t looking.
The rest of the movie is motivated by a confession that the toys seemed to forget, or not yet realize, in the first movie: that a toy’s chief end is to be loyal to his owner and be enjoyed BY him forever. Part of the film’s penance for the franchise’s past sins is its introduction of the Anti-Sid, a young girl who is the ideal player with toys because she has the best imagination of any child in the neighborhood.
If the film’s early camcorder biography of Andy’s relationship with his toys feels like a feeble encore of the similar montage that began Up, don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t jerk your tears like it did in Pixar’s previous film. In Toy Story 3 the tearjerking tour de force for a final sequence that is one of the most beautiful Acts of Grace ever depicted on film. It’s making me cry right now in this library just thinking about it so I’m going to quit writing about it. Just see the movie.