A HIGH-SPEED CAR chase (featuring Barbie's pink Corvette), plundering outlaws (in the shape of Potato Heads), orphans in jeopardy (in the guise of colourful trolls) and a Hiroshima-style cloud of Tumbling Monkeys – all put to rights with the intervention of a superhero who declares: "To infinity and beyond…” It can only be the opening sequence of Disney Pixar's most eagerly awaited blockbuster Toy Story 3 that kicks off brilliantly with an homage to the powers of a child's imagination.
Fast-forward a decade, however, and we have a brooding 17-year-old Andy sighing as his mother nags him about clearing out his bedroom before his imminent departure to college. While Andy wistfully ponders whether to bring Woody, his best-loved toy (what will his first college girlfriend make that, we wonder? Cute or creepy?), a series of unfortunate events leads to Woody, and the rest of Andy's toys, forced to start a new life at Sunnyside Daycare Centre.
And what a sunny place Sunnyside appears to be, filled with the most welcoming of toys (discarded or donated) and children who just can't get enough play. But all is not what it seems: our cast of toys soon realise they have been consigned to the toddlers' room where unruliness rules and the idea of “age-appropriateness” is completely alien. What's more, they discover that Lotsa (the hugging bear who smells of strawberries) who rules the roost is more like a mafiosa godfather, with a wonky-eyed overgrown dolly as his henchman.
The beauty of Toy Story has always been the fragility and honesty, not to mention the brilliantly observed humour, of the central characters – loyal-to-the-last Woody and puffed-up-but-able-to-laugh-at-himself Buzz. Now it's time for Ken "I'm not a girl's toy” to shine, renaming Barbie's Dreamhouse (instantly recognisable as the must-have toy for a generation of females of a certain age) Ken's Dreamhouse, and camping it up with a hilarious fashion parade showcasing his enviable wardrobe with every look from a glitter tux to his yodelling lederhosen. The other highlight is Buzz, when he gets switched into Spanish mode, serenading Jessie and clicking his heels like a cross between a matador and a flamenco dancer, all along to the Gypsy Kings singing Hay Un Amigo En Mi – the latino version of Randy Newman's You've Got A Friend In Me.
This is a wonderfully slick and witty piece of film-making tinged with poignant moments that tug at the heart strings. It might make your child think of how he treats his toys (for a fleeting moment, at least) but it will certainly make parents want to treasure those early years. Because before we know it, our own little Andys will also be heading off to college…
Toy Story 3 is out on July 17. See it in IMAX if you can for the full impact of the dramatic scene when the toys look like they're destined for a fiery date with a furnace.