The fear of becoming obsolete. Abandonment issues. The
threat of Death By Monkeys.
They’re all part of the psychological backdrop of “Toy Story
3,” a first-rate — and long-overdue — sequel that both lives up to and builds
on the legacy of 1995’s “Toy Story” and 1999’s “Toy Story 2.”
“Little Miss Sunshine” screenwriter Michael Ardnt might have
seemed like a peculiar choice to pen the conclusion of the saga of Woody and
Buzz Lightyear, but he’s done a marvelous job, effortlessly continuing the tone
of the series and providing the same multiple levels of humor that marked the
earlier films. While there’s plenty of fun to be had, there’s also a
considerable amount of wistfulness and poignancy in this chapter; many viewers
will find their 3D glasses misting up during the finale.
Before then, however, they will have savored some wonderful
one-liners and, as in the previous “Toy Storys,” a fair amount of nail-biting
suspense. Director Lee Unkrich, who edited the first “Toy Story” and
co-directed the second, masterfully maintains the familiar personalities of
such beloved characters as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Hamm the feisty piggy
bank, Jessie the vivacious cowgirl and Rex the eternally anxious dinosaur while
easily working in some memorable new additions, including a seemingly
bubble-brained Barbie who turns out to be anything but a dumb blonde, and a
suave Ken doll with some major insecurities (“I’m not a girl toy — I’m not!”).
“3” picks up many years after the second installment, with
ever-encouraging cowboy Woody trying to convince his fellow toys that they
still have a place in the heart of Andy, their owner. The cheerleading sounds a
bit hollow, however, since Andy is now 17 and on the verge of departing for
college; the old toy box is still in his bedroom, but its occupants haven’t
been outside for quite some time. Pressured by his mom to get organized, Andy
makes an error that has near-disastrous consequences for his old friends, who
end up in the “Caterpillar Room” at a day-care center laughingly named Sunnyside.
At first, the toys are optimistic about their future — “The door has a rainbow
on it!” Rex observes — but Sunnyside is not all fun and games, thanks to a crew
of hyperactive toddlers and a tyrannical teddy known as Lotso Huggin’ Bear
(whose alternatively Grampa-like and gruff voice is provided by Ned Beatty),
who is not as cuddly as he appears to be.
One of the movie’s many remarkable features is how Tom Hanks
and Tim Allen have managed to keep their respective characters of Woody and
Buzz fresh and funny, even at this late date. Buzz, in particular, gets a
savory storyline this time around, and Ardnt cleverly slips a mild bit of innuendo
into Buzz’s relationship with Jessie, who begins to see the spaceman in a
different light. John Ratzenberger’s Hamm, Don Rickles’ prickly Mr. Potato Head
and Estelle Harris’ Mrs. Potato Head are also as endearing as ever.
Jodi Benson brings a knockout combination of girlishness and
determination to the surprisingly shrewd Barbie, while Michael Keaton has a
field day with the vain, fashion-conscious and easily manipulated Ken.
“Toy Story 3” concludes with a beautifully modulated
sequence that wraps up the trilogy in the best possible way. If Pixar is
bidding a fond farewell to its founding fathers (and mothers), this is one sensational