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Toy Story 3 Review


RATING:
(4 STARS)

Rarely does a film come out at the absolute perfect time, but “Toy Story 3” is such a film. I’d argue this film isn’t made for kids—it’s made for those of us, like me, who grew up with the “Toy Story” characters. We watched as kids and went home wishing we could catch our toys coming to life when we left a room. “Toy Story 2” brought a welcome bit of nostalgia and made us appreciate our childhood as we began to transition. Now fully transitioned to adulthood, we sit and admire “Toy Story 3.” We laugh with the characters we’ve missed over the past ten years (the same way we miss our old toys and our childhood), and we cry, thinking about how we will never be as innocent as we were back in 1995. The movie may be rated-G, but I think I’m right in the target demographic. And I enjoyed it as much as I hoped I would. Expectations were sky high, but “Toy Story 3” and the geniuses at Pixar managed to surpass them once again.

All the beloved characters are back. There’s Cowboy Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), who leads his fellow toys; Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen), Woody’s best friend and second-in-command; Jessie (voice of Joan Cusack) and her horse, Bullseye; The Potato Head, Mr. (voice of Don Rickles) and Mrs. (voice of Estelle Harris); Hamm (voice of John Ratzenberger); Slinky (voice of Blake Clark, replacing the deceased Jim Varney); Rex (voice of Wallace Shawn); and those hilarious little Pizza Planet aliens, who are now Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head’s children.

Andy (voice of John Morris) is about to go off to college, and it’s threat level midnight for his toys. They want him to play with them and maybe, just maybe, take them to college with him. He doesn’t have time to waste on this “junk” (his words, not mine), and tries to put them in the attic, all but his best pal Woody. After a series of mishaps, they all end up at Sunnyside, a local daycare, which seems like paradise. Their fellow toys, especially the leader, Lotso Huggin Bear (voice of Ned Beatty), are incredibly friendly, and there will always be kids to play with them. Woody, however, is unconvinced. They are Andy’s toys and not being there for him is akin to betrayal.

Turns out, Woody was right to be skeptical. Sunnyside looks nice, but the veteran toys run the place like a prison, and the room to which Andy’s toys are relegated is for the youngest kids, who prefer smashing, licking, and painting their toys to actually playing with them. They have little choice but to escape, but it’s not so easy to break out of Sunnyside.

The screenplay, by “Little Miss Sunshine” scribe Michael Arndt, is exceptional. It has been a while since I’ve seen the first two films, but this one has more humor than the other two, from what I can remember. There’s a creepy baby doll who represents the muscle around Sunnyside. He (or is it a she?) is bizarre and very funny. Another scene in which Mr. Potato Head loses his body is laugh-out-loud funny. And unlike most “comedies,” jokes don’t miss. Arndt knows not to overplay his hand. Even kids get tired of lame humor eventually, but he switches things up with legitimate action and moments of drama.

The film looks beautiful. I saw it in 2-D (I’m pretty much done with 3-D, with a few exceptions on the distant horizon—Scorsese’s “Hugo Cabret” and Cameron’s “Avatar 2” being the only two I can think about right now), so the colors were vibrant, especially during the scenes at Sunnyside. The voice work is also great. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen know their characters very well at this point and can convince you of their emotions quite easily. The minor characters, however, are where the voice work is most noticeable and most memorable. Wallace Shawn, for example, is perfect for Rex, the terrified dinosaur. And Estelle Harris, who will always be Mrs. Costanza to me, brings that shrill yell to the role of the nagging wife.

Ultimately, what sets this film apart from most animated films (and every other film I’ve seen so far this year) is the attention the filmmakers pay to the emotions of the story. It very subtly brings you to the verge of tears. It never feels manipulative, and it doesn’t ring false whatsoever. Animated or not, most films can’t say that about themselves, so bravo to Pixar for not only doing it here, but seemingly every year.

It’s too early to say if this will go down as my favorite Pixar film, but it seems quite possible. I never thought they would top “WALL-E,” but subsequent viewings might show that they did with “Toy Story 3.” It’s a delightful film for people of all ages, but especially those of you like me—about to enter the real world and remembering very fondly the happy, care-free years of our youth.

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