OK, confession time: I've never seen a "Toy Story" movie. Ever. Yep, I'm a dirty communist, but having never seen one before makes it perfect to look at the new installment, "Toy Story 3" (now on Blu-ray and DVD) through objective eyes. How does it stand as its own movie, apart from the other two? Pretty darn good!
Using their typical Pixar fairy dust, the creators immediately set up the layers of this world, which is toys being imaginatively played with, toys as inanimate objects, and toys as living beings with thoughts and feelings whenever a human's back is turned.
We're then brought into present day with Andy, the child from the first two, all grown up and heading to college. His now-neglected toys, including Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, Rex the dinosaur, and space-out spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), are getting relegated to the attic, with only Woody the cowboy (Tom Hanks) taken along for some co-ed high jinks.
When Andy's mom mistakes the toys for giveaways, she donates them to Sunnyside Daycare, a seemingly copasetic place where a toy can kick back and be played with. Unfortunately, this pre-school oasis turns out to be a pastel-colored Alcatraz, ruled with an iron fist by Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty). This devious strawberry-scented bastard dooms our band of toy heroes to toddler torture, so it's up to the crafty Woody to save the day and get back to Andy before he is forgotten/replaced by a stack of Girls Gone Wild DVDs.
Pixar made a smart move in hiring "Little Miss Sunshine" screenwriter Michael Arndt to pen this animated romp, as he adds the same sly humor blended with emotional depth he brought to that sleeper indie hit. There's funny interaction between Woody & Buzz, Barbie & Ken (hilariously voiced by Michael Keaton), as well as super-nostalgia buttons being pushed with all the cute playthings (love that Totoro cameo!). But at the center this is a story about attachment, and letting go, whether it be saying goodbye to your beloved toys or a mother's son finally leaving the nest.
This studio is the Jimi Hendrix of plucking heartstrings, and "Toy Story 3" is no exception. You got me, guys!
Extras! There's plenty to play with on the Blu-ray package, which includes a "Beyond the Toybox" commentary track, "Ken's Dating Tips", and the brilliant short film "Day & Night" (shown before "Toy Story 3" in theaters).