More than a decade has passed since the last installment, but Pixar still show themselves fully deserving the crown of CG animation emperors. While a tick or two off the heights reached in the first couple, it's still a startling achievement, packing an emotional punch through its characters that Dreamworks can only... Well, dream of. Now, owner Andy, is all grown-up and is heading off to college, leaving the toys to an uncertain future: will they end up in the attic or the trash? The outcome is a middle-road: donation to a day-care center, where they initially appear to have an ideal life, being played with by an endless stream of loving owners. However, things don't turn out quite as they hope, and the playthings need to escape, despite the efforts of those who would keep them in the day-care. However, it may be a case of out of the frying-pan, literally, into the fire - which is the last place any toy wants to be.
There's a curiously downbeat vibe to much of this, culminating in a scene which feels as it has come right out of Schindler's List, shifting the tone from prison-break to death-camp escape. It's at odds with the warm, fuzzy tone you'd expect from the series, where the threats were nowhere near as starkly depicted - here, the toys stare bleakly at the end of their existence, and there's nothing they can do, except slide gently into oblivion. Sheesh. It's done with all the effectiveness you'd expect from the company, as is the rest of the film - notably the bittersweet ending - but you kinda wish they hadn't bothered. That said, much of the movie is nothing less than a treasure-box of delights, big and small, from Buzz Lightyear's Spanish-language mode being activated, to the presence of a Totoro as one of the new toys. If anyone is going to put me through the emotional wringer, I'm happy for it to be Pixar, and if we have to wait another decade for a fourth installment, I'm prepared to be patient.