Expect to laugh while watching Toy Story 3, but bring the tissues. Like last year's Up from the same company, Pixar, this film tickles the funny bone but also brings a tear to the eye.
Andy (voiced by John Morris) has grown up. Bound for college, he is cleaning out the remnants of his childhood. Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang find themselves mistakenly donated to a daycare.
In this wondrous world of constant play, they receive a warm welcome from Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear, a strawberry-smelling cuddle bear. Barbie also meets Ken, who lives the high life in his Dream House but with no one to share it.
There's trouble in paradise. Lots-o', far from being the loving bundle of cuddliness he seems, runs the daycare by intimidation and violence. His lackeys, a big baby doll and a monkey-with-cymbals toy, enforce his cold-hearted plans. (The film is rated G, but some very small children may find Lots-o' and his minions scary.) He banishes Andy's toys to the "caterpillar room," a horror-filled classroom of wild toddlers. The toys must make it back home to Andy and end Lots-o's reign of terror in the process.
Pixar doesn't disappoint. The film is packed with laugh-out-loud moments, from the moment the plastic toy soldiers set out for a new life to Mr. Potato Head without his potato. What is unexpected, although perhaps it shouldn't be with a Pixar movie, is the emotional punch. The last 20 minutes of this silly movie about talking toys becomes a homage to true friendship and a bittersweet meditation on children growing older. There is a moment when the parents in the theater collectively get a lump in their throats. You sense in the darkness a hundred hands reaching out to caress their children.
Children get older. So, too, do movie franchises. Pixar has done well, giving the characters we have come to love a proper goodbye. We know they're OK, but as with Andy, it's time for us to move on.