In November 1995, my oldest son and I discovered Woody, Buzz and Andy. That next year, on Halloween, my son dressed as Buzz Lightyear.
As my son grew, we walked in the footsteps of Woody, Buzz and Andy. Why Andy? Because in “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2” and now “Toy Story 3,” the main character was really Andy.
When the toys got lost, whether in Sid’s torture chamber of a room or in Al’s office or in Sunnyside Daycare, it was Andy who was foremost in the heart of Woody to get the toys back into Andy’s room.
Now, Andy (John Morris) is going off to college, and the toys are facing the attic, yard sale or donation bin. Andy intends to put them up in the attic and take Woody (Tom Hanks) off to college, but a series of mistakes allows the toys to be placed on the curb.
Woody, having been placed in a box to go to college, sees where his family is and runs to rescue them. The toys come forth from the trash bag believing that Andy rejected them, and they climb in mom’s car to go into the donation box. That box is off to Sunnyside Daycare.
Buzz (Tim Allen) and company do not care that they are being donated. All they care about is being played with by a child. But what they find at Sunnyside is not what they bargained for: toddlers.
Buzz goes to see boss of the daycare, Lotso Bear (Ned Beatty), to ask for a transfer. But Lotso, though seemingly warm and cuddly, runs the daycare like a prison.
Woody, of course, discovers all this and works to get the toys back where they belong; they are Andy’s toys and their heart is with Andy.
“Toy Story 3” is a bit darker than the other two in the series. The daycare plays more like a place where toys go to die. Lotso is an angry presence, and the toys there are used to punish those that cross him. So the story really presents the hardships of life.
Life is bittersweet. Children do not stay 5. They grow up, and toys that once held the attention of a 5- year-old find themselves discarded and forgotten. We got a hint of this in Jessie’s (Joan Cusack) story in “Toy Story 2.”
“Toy Story 3” reminds us that we all must learn to let go. The toys must let go of Andy and, sadly, parents must let go of their children.
As I watched “Toy Story 3,” there were many times when I fought back tears. Andy and my son walked the same path. Andy is off to college and my son is as well. This movie brought it all back into focus.
It may be rated G, but “Toy Story 3” is not a children’s movie. Do not get me wrong; kids will love it. Our 14-year-old sat with me and wiped away the droplets and laughed heartily. Every child in the theater was completely entertained.
This movie is really a parent’s movie. It is for those of us who have put Buzz costumes on our children and listened to Woody say for the thousandth time, “There’s a snake in my boot!”
It reminds us of days gone by and the joys of watching a child love a toy – and then grow up. And that’s life. Until you have grandchildren.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: G.
Director: Lee Unkrich
Writers: Michael Arndt and John Lasseter
Voices: Tom Hanks: Woody; Tim Allen: Buzz; Joan Cusack: Jessie; Ned Beatty: Lotso; Don Rickles: Mr. Potato Head; Estelle Harris: Mrs. Potato Head; Michael Keaton: Ken; Jodi Benson: Barbie; Wallace Shawn: Rex; John Morris: Andy.
The movie’s Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.