Toy Story 3 picks up quite a few years after the first sequel. Andy’s (John Morris) toys have lost a few members: Wheezy, Etch and tear, Bo Peep. But they’re still going strong. Sort of. The gang are for prepping for a big move – to Andy’s attic. You see, their loyal owner is headed to college and his mom insists that he ditch his former playtime pals, or hand them over to the local daycare. Andy’s not so sure, so he puts the group, with the exception of his (and my) clear fave, Woody, in a trash bag. His intention is to put them up in storage for safe-keeping and future reminiscing. But he gets distracted and his mom mistakes them for garbage. Thinking on his marker-encrusted feet, Woody shimmies down the drain pipe to save his other best buds. But they are already working on an escape plan. They’ve decided to go a place where they think toys always get played with: Sunnyside Daycare.When they step out of their cardboard box and into the foam, number-covered floor of Sunnyside, Buzz, Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bullseye, Rex (the always overdone Wallace Shawn), Hamm (Pixar fave John Ratzenberger), the Potato fam (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) and Slinky think they’ve got it made. The new toys, led by a shady strawberry-scented huggable bear, Lotso (Ned Beatty), and his creepy baby friend, seem friendly enough. They smile a lot and invite them to hang out in the fancy “Caterpillar Room.” Little do they know, Lotso is a dictator and half, who strings innocent imagination instruments so he can get his plush toy power trip fix.
The story can be a bit over-the-top, and even scary for the little ones at times (that baby is actually terrifying). In fact, it will probably anger some young, daycare-lovin’ rents. But, at its mainly optimistic heart,
Toy Story 3is just like Andy’s superbly loyal sheriff: funny, endlessly creative and undeniably heart-warming.The script, written by
Little Miss Sunshine scribe, Michael Arndt, is as witty as ever, bringing simple sight gags (Mr. Potato Head trades his spud shell for a tortilla and a cucumber) for the wee ones, and veiled innuendos for the big kids (Barbie to Ken: “Nice as-cot.”) Arndt also does a great job calling back to the previous movies. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this: once in awe of the claw, always in awe of the claw.Although the basic structure is there, there’s also a few minor changes this time around. Unlike its strictly one-dimensional predecessors, this sequel is available in 3-D and 3-D IMAX. While the extended visuals are fun, they’re kind of unnecessary. 3-D has become code for, “Our story sucks, so spent our budget on effects,” these days. And that couldn’t be further from the truth in this case.
There are also quite a few new faces – Barbie (Jodi Benson), Ken (a delightfully disco dinner jacket lovin’ Michael Keaton), a theatrical plastic porcupine named Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), a stuffed unisex unicorn named Buttercup (Jeff Garlin) – and even a few renewed ones (Blake Clarke does an eerie job taking over Slinky-Dog for Ernest, I mean, Jim Varney, who passed a year after
TS2hit theatres) to fall in love with. While they are all awesome, the best new toy has to be Spanish Buzz. Prepare to die, laughing.Although there is plenty to giggle about in
TS3, there is also plenty to get misty-eyed about. The last 20 minutes or so are like fresh onions for the cinematic crybaby crowd. Scratch that. They’re tear gas for anyone who grew up with, or sat with their kids as they grew up with, Woody and Buzz. We may not have marked our names on the cowboy and his space pal’s fake feet (although, I did try to put a Sharpie to my Woody’s bootie once), but they’re permanently etch-a-sketched into our hearts. So when they’re sad, or in danger, we feel the heat too. Big time.
Toy Story 3‘s finale is hopefully open-ended, leaving room for a possible fourth installment. If it’s anything like this one, I’m in. This is one series worth following, to infinity and beyond. A