Byline: Ramin Setoodeh
if you expect to have trouble letting go of your son when he heads off to college, perhaps there's solace in this: imagine how crummy his toys must feel. That's the premise behind Toy Story 3. Now that Andy is all grown up, his plastic friends are in a frenzy over getting dumped. Like all the Toy Story movies, No. 3 is a parable about aging--how does time change the loves of our lives? But it's also the darkest Toy Story yet. In one scene, the gang accidentally falls into a junkyard incinerator, and as they come dangerously close to the fire, they all clutch each other's hands (or paws) to say goodbye. Your kids won't be the only ones tempted to cover their eyes. The moment unfurls not just as an ode to the passage of childhood but also as a meditation on grown-up mortality.
And then there's the meta-theme: the fact that Toy Story itself rendered a particular brand of children's entertainment extinct. The best Disney films (Pinocchio, Bambi, The Lion King) have always played on the heartstrings of all ages, but Toy Story changed the script. Animated movies now have a dry Seinfeld-ian wit, more Friends than Snoopy and friends. The original Toy Story--co-written by Joss Whedon in his pre-Buffy the Vampire Slayer days--was constructed like a buddy action movie and sprinkled with dialogue that worked on different levels. (Woody calls his rival "Buzz Light Beer.") The 1999 sequel, about a toy collector who kidnaps Woody, was even better with its sly pop-culture references. …