There's one certainty in life apart from death and taxes: Pixar delivers. While not every Pixar film is created equal, even the lesser films -- Monsters, Inc., Bugs, Cars -- are better than the majority of what Hollywood puts out in a typical year. The best ones -- Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Up -- are masterpieces. For me the aberration is Wall*E, a film that aimed for greatness (and in its first 45 minutes, achieved it), but was bogged down by its heavy-handed message.
Toy Story, and its first sequel, were wonderful, snappy buddy pictures. But even at their best, they never delivered the emotional wallop of Finding Nemo or Up. Toy Story 3 is the odd tertiary franchise film that bests its predecessors. It's the most focused (and thrilling) of the trilogy, and the most moving. Those 3-D glasses have a secondary purpose -- they hide tears.
What sets the Toy Story films apart from the rest of the Pixar oeuvre is their deep understanding of childhood. Here the series' themes of mortality, disposability, and devotion reaches a climax. Andy is off to college. Our beloved toys' very purpose in life, to be played with and loved, is threatened. Like the previous films, Toy Story 3 is a return-to-home adventure story, mixed with a large dollop of Prison Break. Yes, it's rollicking and clever, but Toy Story 3 is infused with tender nostalgia, without being sentimental.
Oh, it's really, really fun, too.