Friday, June 18, 2010

"Toy Story 3" a gushing treasure



Toy Story 3 (2010) 
103 min., rated G.
Grade: A

For a second sequel eleven years after the first and fifteen since the original, "Toy Story 3" really works...to infinity and beyond! As you could imagine, it's a wonderfully funny, touching, and gorgeously animated blend of comedy, action, and drama. When the Disney and Pixar credits come up on the cloud wallpaper, there's an undeniable sense of childhood nostalgia that should resonate with audiences. 

Cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks), astronaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and friends are toys in crisis: their now-17-year-old owner Andy is packing for college. He's outgrown his playthings, and plans to put his box of toys in the attic. Instead, they wind up in trash bags and kicked to the curb for the garbage truck. But wait! The toys make it to the Sunnyside Day Care Center, where they meet new toys and get terrorized by hyperactive, aggressive toddlers. The daycare, although thought to be a new home with “no owners and no heartbreak,” is more of a prison for toys with a plush teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty) in charge. He may look cuddly but he has ulterior motives and he's the villain of the piece like Sid, Big Al, and Stinky Pete from the previous movies. So they must devise a prison break to get back where they belong. 

Our old favorite toys return like a reunion with friends, including cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) and horse Bullseye, Hamm the piggy-bank pig (John Ratzenberger), Rex the dino (Wallace Shawn), Barbie (Jodi Benson), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark taking over for Jim Varney), and the bickering Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles, Estelle Harris). Of course, there are new funny toy characters too: a creepy Big Baby, ditzy triceratops Trixie (Kristen Schaal), a porcupine (Jeff Garlin) and fashion-loving Ken (Michael Keaton) who wants to add Barbie to his 'Dream House.' 

Lee Unkrich does a high-achieving solo job as John Lasseter's co-director on "Toy Story 2," with the voice performances winning as ever. Randy Newman's poignant score is perfect as usual for the devastating themes of abandonment and inevitability of growing up. Obviously this third film (written by Michael Arndt) is less of a discovery than the first two, but in-jokes to "The Great Escape" and "Mission: Impossible" still seem fresh and inventive in the hands of the Pixar team, like when a Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone gives Woody advice in the voice of a film-noir witness. A truly exciting action sequence that has the toys nearing an incinerator may be intense and scary for the kiddos, but you really feel the danger of this life-or-death situation, and it's always picked up by more gushing fun (Buzz's reset button gets pushed and he starts speaking Spanish). 

As a goodbye for Andy (and us), the conclusion reaches an emotional depth: it's meant to be. Be prepared to cry like a big baby; adults, yeah you, will be invested in the toys' final destination, too. "Toy Story 3" is a triumph over live-action movies with great slapstick, beloved characters, and honest emotion, now making for a complete trilogy that's a treasure and more satisfying than "The Godfather: Part III."

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