The Plot: Taking place after the events of Toy Story 3, in this installment Bonnie and her mom take a road trip to her grandmother's house. En route they get a flat tire and need to spent the night at a motel. Spooked from a scary movie they had been watching earlier in the trunk of the car, the toys become concerned for Mr. Potato Head, who has ventured out of their suitcase to find some free toiletries to bring back for Hamm. (Nice touch.)
The main bulk of the movie centers on Jessie who winds up alone in the motel when the rest of the toys are picked off one by one by a mysterious creature, including the Combat Carl action figure she encounters along the way. It turns out the mysterious creature is an iguana who has been trained by the motel's owner to steal toys and knickknacks that he turns around and sells online.
After overcoming her fear of boxes and with the help of Carl, she rescues Woody from a delivery truck and frees the other toys just in time to be seen by Bonnie and her mom and reunited for their return to Grandma's house.
The Good: Kids will positively love this installment that throws these beloved characters into a fun little Halloween tale. It has action, comedy, and plenty of Pixar meta-humor all neatly packed into a half hour. Devoted Toy Story fans will appreciate the various call backs to the films including Woody's sale for an exorbitantly high price (as we've established how rare the doll is), the appearance of Combat Carl (the doll Sid blows up in the first film), and Jessie's previously unexplored PTSD from being left in a box for years. Mr. Pricklepants constantly pointing out how what was happening mimicked the plot of a horror film was some well executed humor too.
The Bad: It certainly could have stood to be longer. There was some good potential for plot development but other than the focus on Jessie it goes unexplored. I suppose this was logistical as well. It has to be a lot easier to get Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to sign on for a TV special when it's a half hour of work voicing 3 or 4 lines each.
The whole plot of the toys getting stolen to be sold was kind of tired as well since we already saw it in Toy Story 2. And the owner training a lizard to do his dirty work was a little too much "stretching the imagination" even for a movie with sentient toys. I thought it would have been better if the danger had all been in the toys' imaginations so at least that way you teach kids a "don't be scared of the dark" type lesson. Instead the lesson is "don't stay at a motel cause an iguana might steal your shit."
Random Notes & Nitpicks:
- I loved the interplay and distaste between Potato Head and Pricklepants. ("If anything happens to the Potato...I want to see!")
- The person who bought Woody was, in fact, Al from Toy Story 2. Poor guy got foiled again.
- There is a tombstone for Simon Paladino during the horror movie the toys watch. This is a reference to The Incredibles, adding further flame to the "every Pixar movie takes place in the same universe" fire.
- It was a little annoying to see that when kidnapped and presuming to never get home again, Potato Head didn't care at all about possibly never seeing his wife again (though, it would probably be within his character to feel that way, haha.)
Final Thoughts: Should you watch this? Sure! It's absolutely not worth going out of your way to find but it's a worthy addition to the Pixar catalog and well worth your half hour. Plus the kids will love it for sure and probably want to watch it all year long.
Rating: *** 3/4