Toy Story 3 Maintains It’s Charm

Toy Story 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich

Written by John Lassiter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich

Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, Ned Beatty, Estelle Harris, Wallace Shawn, Jodie Benson

Much time has passed since the last Toy Story, and to the credit of the producers of the series, they used that time off to their advantage.  Andy is college bound, and while he has a soft spot for his toys, can’t really be expected to hang onto more than, say, Woody (Hanks).  Still, he can’t get rid of them, so up in the attic they go.  If only things were that simple, but this is Toy Story, so there has to be a misunderstanding that puts one or more of the buddies in jeopardy.

This time, they all end up at a daycare.  At first it looks like a paradise, with so many toys being played with so gently.  Little do they know, this is not the part of the daycare they get to retire to.  Instead, they get to be assaulted by the frantic young kids in another room.  By this point, they have been introduced to another in a long line of rotund bad guys, Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (aka Lotso, played by Beatty) and his henchmen.  One of these, Ken (Michael Keaton, stealing the show), is well-meaning, but starts to turn, ultimately, when he meets the match of his dreams…Barbie (Benson).  The scenes that they are in, collectively, are among the best in the film.

Buzz, meanwhile, has been forcibly converted to a brute henchman.  Tim Allen has never been one of my favorites, in real or animated form, but here he is allowed to show that the Daisy Air Rifle has a bit more range, especially when you convert Buzz to Spanish mode.  Joan Cusack, as Jessie, adds that extra bit of doubt to every situation, and then an incredible enthusiasm that occurs when the group needs a boost.

This adventure is augmented by the incredible bond shared by all the characters.  After all these years, there is no skipping a beat.  One gets the true feeling of friendship between Wallace Shawn’s Rex and John Ratzenberger’s Hamm, to name a couple.  The passing of time is equally noticeable in other aspects, like seeing the young pup in the first movie as an old, loafing dog or seeing Sid as a garbage man still rocking the same shirt.

If there is a drawback to the film, other than the producer’s proclivity to demonizing fat characters (Al, The Prospector, Lotso), it would be the relentlessness of the last 30 minutes.  This is a small complaint, though.  Toy Story is one of the great franchises in movie history.  The third movie in this groundbreaking series is every bit worthy of its predecessors.

(****1/2 out of *****)

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