Here's what Pixar gets. It's about story. It's about characters. It's about heart. As a brand, as a company, as a collective of absolutely genius filmmakers, Pixar understands - if you build it - and build it right - then they will come...in droves...and over and over.
Even at a midnight screening for Day 43, after working a full day, watching Knight and Day at the Fox lot for Day 42, rushing to get that post up, and then racing to see this in IMAX 3D at the very first, earliest screening (so I could actually make time today to prepare proper for my friend's wedding), I found Toy Story 3 to easily be the best summer 2010 tentpole experience by leagues, and one of the very best films of the year.
The adventure this time finds Andy preparing to leave for college. Our gang of toys - Woody, Buzz, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, and the rest - end up donated at the Sunnyside Day Care Center, where they're used and abused by the rowdy preschoolers and the resident toy inmates (headed by nefarious Ned Beatty as the not-so-cuddly Lotso bear). In grand prison-break movie tradition, the toys plot their escape so they can make it back to their beloved owner before he heads off to the next stage of his life.
The resulting film dazzles with its epic sequences (an extended chase through the junkyard is stunning and surprisingly dark) and an upgraded visual style that shows off a new and more fluid version of the toys you've grown to love (who knew Buzz was such a sprightly flamenco dancer?). I'm not sure it's better than 1 or 2, but it's a fitting part 3 conclusion, with grander ambitions in its design and a thoroughly emotional, satisfying end - filled with real wit, genuine humanity, lots of earned tears...and something valuable to say.
Should you see it? Absolutely, and with good friends and family. I saw it with my buddy Mike, who swears by the 2nd installment...and I might agree with him in a way...the emotional impact of Jessie's montage in that film, and the accompanying "When She Loved Me" tune is hard to top. But this one packs a doozie, too, and really, Pixar's made a classic each time out. Which one's your favorite, and why?...I've got 10 free Fandango Bucks movie tickets that have been burning a hole in my pocket for awhile now, so definitely, let me know on the Pixar question in the comments below, and I'll randomly select 10 winners by next Friday so you can see any summer movie you'd like!