June 18, 2010
Review - " Toy Story 3 " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Toy Story 3
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace
Shawn, Estelle Harris, John Ratzenberger, Ned Beatty , Michael
Keaton, Kristen Schaal, Blake Clark, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf,
Jodi Benson, Timothy Dalton, Jeff Garlin, Whoopi Goldberg ,
Bonnie Hunt, R. Lee Ermey
Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a
day-care center after their owner, Andy, departs for college.
From the looks of it, it seems Pixar will never go out of style nor will
they make a mediocre or bad film. Once again, going back to that
wonderful cast of characters we all love that includes the cowboy
Woody, the spaceman Buzz Lightyear, as well as Jessie, Bullseye,
Rex, Ham, Slinky and many more, Pixar doesn't just recycle old
clichés and story lines. Rather, they use what they have already
done and build upon that foundation to create a brand-new,
exciting and fantastic adventure. This is what happens when you're
good at your job: Everyone expects excellence from you, and
anything even slightly short of that feels like a letdown.
"Toy Story 3" is a gorgeous film – funny, sweet and clever in the
tradition of the best Pixar movies – but because it comes from that
studio's nearly flawless tradition, including two "Toy Story"
predecessors, the expectations naturally are inflated. Pixar has a
perfect track record of animated classics, with the innovative "Toy
Story" starting it all in 1995. And so the pressure's on to come up
with a tale that makes a sequel worthwhile.
The storytelling in no way is in question; it never is at Pixar, which is the fundamental reason their films are so strong. Neither
is the voice cast, led once again by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack, with formidable newcomers like Ned Beatty
thrown into the mix. The details are as vibrant and tactile as ever: the textures and expressions, the use of light, angles and
And the core concept – that toys have a rich,
complex life when people aren't around – still
holds up and resonates all these years later.
If "Toy Story" hadn't come out in 1995 and
"Toy Story 2" hadn't followed it in 1999,
"Toy Story 3" would stand on its own as a
breakthrough. Trouble is, those earlier movies
do exist. And by comparison, this third
installment doesn't feel quite so fresh.
And then, of course, there is the 3D – the trend
of the summer, the thing that makes this
"Toy Story" different from the first two. It's not
intrusive. It doesn't consist of stuff being flung
at you and plopped in your laps in gimmicky
fashion. But as is so often the case, it's also
That's especially true with the kind of strong writing you have here. The words and the characters pop off the screen just
fine on their own.
The premise is compelling: Andy (voiced by John Morris) is no longer a kid playing all day in his room with Woody (Hanks),
Buzz Lightyear (Allen), cowgirl Jessie (Cusack) and the rest. He's heading off to college, and as he's cleaning out his room,
he must decide what to do with his old friends. Mom (Laurie Metcalf) gives him two options: stick them in a box for storage in
the attic or throw them in a trash bag for the garbage men.
The toys, including the neurotic dinosaur Rex (Wallace Shawn), know-it-all piggy bank Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and
wisecracking Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), are freaked out by both prospects. Plus, they're just
sad to see their friend go and have all the good times end. It raises the kind of deep, existential question you don't often see
in a kids movie: If no one acknowledges you, do you still exist?
Through a couple of mix-ups (and some "Mission: Impossible"-style maneuvering), they wind up instead at a day care, which
seems awesome: Kids play with you all day! And new kids are constantly coming through, so the toys will never be bored or
lonely! It's paradise – until they're placed in the room with all the wildly grabby toddlers, rather than the older kids who play a
little more gently. And the whole place is run with a firm, fuzzy paw by Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (the excellent Beatty), who's all
Southern charm at first but is actually a Machiavellian tyrant. He's like a pink, strawberry-scented Tennessee Williams
Among the other new cast members, Timothy Dalton is a total scene-stealer as a hedgehog in lederhosen named Mr.
Pricklepants, a preening British actor, and Michael Keaton is perfect as pretty-boy Ken, who's just as obsessed with clothes
as Barbie (Jodi Benson) is. It's some of the best work Keaton's done in years, and a great reminder of how funny he can be.
Unkrich, who was a film editor on "Toy
Story" and co-director on "Toy Story 2,"
plays the petite prison elements of the
situation for tons of clever laughs. There's
also a beautiful, sepia-toned flashback that
explains the origin of Lotso's anger, as well
as the back story of his chief enforcer, a
creepy doll named Big Baby. But then "Toy
Story 3" turns unusually dark as it heads
toward its climax before turning
heavy-handedly sappy at the end.
Adults in the audience will undoubtedly
shed a tear or two. But that's how good the
folks at Pixar are: They make you feel
genuine emotions for hunks of plastic.