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Review: 'Toy Story 3'

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“Toy Story 3”

Directed by:  Lee Unkrich

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn,  John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Jodi Benson, Emily Hahn

Rated: G

It's hard to believe that it's been 15 years since Pixar changed the looks and possibilities of animation with their first feature film. “Toy Story” wowed audiences with the 3-D look of its style presented in regular 2-D. Besides being amazing to look at, “Toy Story” was well written and done in the classic “two-tier” style that the Disney folks had pioneered. These type films are ostensibly children's movies but they also contain plenty of aspects to keep the grown-ups engaged. Pixar's last feature, “Up!,” not only won the Best Animated Feature Oscar, it was nominated for Best Picture. That was a first for an animated film.
 
And now a decade and half after the first installment, Pixar (now owned by Disney) brings us “Toy Story 3.” It's possibly the best of the trilogy, in more ways than one.
While the original “Toy Story” -at the time- was state of the art animation, if we know anything about computer technology it's that it develops at an exponential rate and 15 years is an eon. In “3,” there are tracking shots, subtle changes in light, color and texture and angles that give the film the feel of a live action feature.

The screenplay, written by Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”) contains not only the witty dialog we've come to expect from the “Toy Story” movies, but elements from “prison break” movies, the “Indiana Jones” franchise, action thrillers like the “Bourne” or “Bond” series as well as a lot of heart tugging sentimentality.
 Considering what happened with “Up!,” I wouldn't be surprised if “Toy Story 3” gets a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nod.

For those who haven't seen the first two movies, the toys whose story is being told, are regular toys: A cowboy named Woody, an Astronaut named Buzz Lightyear, various little army men, Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head, a dinosaur, a piggy bank, and so on.

When people aren't around they come to life and are like a big family. Woody is the de facto leader and Buzz his second in command. The group always manages to get into some kind of trouble and this time it's a doozy.

Andy, their “kid,” has gotten older and is going off to college. He has to clean out his room including the chest where the toys have resided -unplayed with- for many years. There are boxes labeled “College,” “Attic,” “Donate” and “Trash.” Woody says the toys be in the attic and it'll be fun. Sooner or later Andy will have kids and they'll get played with again.

But Woody, to everyone's surprise, gets put in the “College” box. Through a series of snafus the other toys end up on the curb and narrowly escape the trash truck. The flukes continue and soon all of the toys (including Woody) end up at Sunnyside Day Care. The  resident toys welcome them, telling the newcomers what a great place it is. Toys get played with all day long, everyday.

But a dark side of the situation soon becomes apparent and Lotso (as in Lot's O Huggin' Bear) is not the benevolent leader he seems to be.

Woody manages to stowaway in a backpack and goes to the home of a nice kid. From there, he plans on getting back home and off to college with Andy. But he soon discovers that at Sunnyside the toys are ruled by a fascist regime, and his friends are in the room with the littlest kids who basically just throw them around and pull them apart.

Woody has no choice but to return to the day care center and rescue his pals. This starts
the real “action” episodes of the film as Woody leads a great escape, only to have the crew caught up in the trash truck, headed to the dump and facing certain destruction.
(Some of these scenes may be too intense for the youngest of viewers.) Those of us older kids know that the toys are gonna make it out OK, but the tension really does mount.

Needless to say they make it back to Andy and end up together at the best of all possible places.

One element that adds a lot to “Toy Story 3” is the introduction of a great number of new toy characters. Andy's sister gets rid of her Barbie doll who ends up headed to Sunnyside with the rest. There she meets Ken for the first time. He lives in a big house and has an entire roomful of clothes. Ken is really into clothes. There are a number of other toys there, some nice, some not so nice. The scariest is “Big Baby,” a cross between the big bubble in “The Prisoner” and Tor Johnson in “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

When Woody first escapes to young Bonnie's house, he befriends an old toy telephone and all of her other toys.

After the tension at the dump, the bittersweet ending will have kids saying, “Awwww...” and adults who remember the pains and pangs of growing up, getting a bit misty.

Technical note: The film is presented in “normal” as well as 3D mode. 3D movies give me headaches and motion sickness so I opted for the regular presentation. Reviews I've read by people who saw both version seem to agree the 3D is somewhat superfluous here and in fact, dulls some of the color and brightness.[[In-content Ad]]

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