Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2 are such beloved screen classics that fans of the franchise were understandably worried whether the latest installment would measure up, given the decade which had intervened in the interim. But everyone can breathe a collective sigh of relief, for this eagerly-anticipated sequel is every bit as enchanting as the earlier offerings. The movie is the product of another inspired collaboration between Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, and is well worth the additional investment to enjoy their latest generation of CGI technology in 3-D.
Directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.), the film features a storyline which sensibly reflects a passage of time since the previous episode. Thus, we have an almost-grown protagonist in Andy Davis (John Morris) who, at 17, is preparing to leave home for college. As he packs, he’s prompted by his mom (Laurie Metcalf) to pick which of his personal belongings he wants to keep, and which he wants her to toss in the trash.
This process generates considerable anxiety in the lad’s motley menagerie of toys, because Andy apparently hasn’t played with any of them in years. Among the anthropomorphic army are astronaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Rex the dinosaur (Wallace Shawn), Hamm the piggy bank (John Ratzenberger), the Squeeze Toy Aliens (Jeff Pidgeon) and cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks).
Andy’s decides to take only Woody with him to school, while placing the rest in a garbage bag he intends to store in the attic. But after a comedy of errors involving his mother and sister, Molly (Beatrice Miller), they end up deposited at Sunnyside Daycare Center, a seemingly-benign institution which secretly shreds and incinerates old, unwanted toys.
Luckily, Woody becomes aware of his pals’ predicament, so he sneaks into Sunnyside to inform them of their plight and to help them escape before they’re exterminated. However, en route to that daredevil breakout we’re treated to such delightful diversions as the hysterical sight of Barbie (Jodie Benson) being seduced and betrayed by a sexually-ambiguous Ken doll (Michael Keaton), and the equally-hilarious serenading of rough-and-tumble Jessie by the suddenly-suave Buzz who’s accidentally been reprogrammed to a Spanish-speaking mode.
Still, Toy Story 3 is primarily an edge of your seat roller coaster ride which gradually ratchets up the escalating tension by racing headlong from one crisis to the next. Of course, this heartwarming, modern fable is ultimately resolved in a manner designed to deliver a shamelessly-sentimental lesson about the value of true friendship, loyalty and cooperation.
A fitting finale for a Disney trilogy guaranteed to resonate with kids of any age for generations to come.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Spanish with subtitles.
Running time: 103 Minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
To see a trailer for Toy Story 3, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNMpa5yBf5o