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Toy Story 3

Funny, suspenseful, bittersweet

Jun. 16, 2010
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The original Toy Story changed the face of animation through advances in computer imaging. It must have been hard for some members of the team behind Toy Story 3 to understand its influence. After all, they were children when the first Toy Story was in theaters in 1995. Aside from working with the kids who grew up with Woody and Buzz, director Lee Unkrich had another shock over the rush of time as he began work on the new film. When he unearthed the electronic files for Toy Story, he found they could no longer be opened. Technologically, the first movie already belongs to the ancient past.

Of course, if computer animation had been the sole virtue of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and other films from Pixar Studios, their impact would have been slighter. Like its predecessors, Toy Story 3 balances the kinetic spectacle of a children’s movie with an intelligently written, heartfelt story that works on multiple levels. The kids will be entertained, the adults will be amused. Everyone will be given something to ponder.

Toy Story 3 is about time and change. Andy, who once found so much happiness with his toys, is 17 and moving away to college. He hasn’t played with his plastic companions for years. Through a series of mishaps, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles, Estelle Harris), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and the gang are donated to the ironically named Sunnyside Daycare Center along with a newcomer, Barbie, tossed away by Andy’s little sister.

After enduring years of neglect from Andy, most of the toys see Sunnyside as a paradise—a place where they will be cared for and given the attention they need. Greeting them is the boss of Sunnyside’s toy land, Lotso (Ned Beatty), a purple hugging bear with a Southern drawl and an easy manner. “No owners means no heartbreak,” the bear says consolingly.

Alone among them, Woody remains skeptical of Sunnyside and resolutely loyal to Andy. If the owner they loved wants to consign them to the attic, at least they will be safe and warm and together. Pixar films have usually painted dim pictures of sterile institutions that claim benevolence, and Sunnyside is no exception. The kids turn out to be toy-wrecking monsters and Lotso is like the tyrannical Southern sheriff from a ’50s film. When he begins, “Listen folks, we got a way of doing things here at Sunnyside,” you know the regime will be pitiless.

Sad-eyed at Andy’s disregard, the toys are hurt and disappointed and considerably more endearing and sympathetic than most of the flesh-and-blood characters that stride through the movies. Is Woody right for wanting to stay the course, to stick with what is known instead of exploring new possibilities? In any event, the moral of the story involves camaraderie and seeing through deceptive appearances. A smile can conceal bad intentions. Funny, suspenseful, bittersweet and technically adept, Toy Story 3 doesn’t actually need its 3-D format. It already has depth.


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