Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Jodi Benson, Emily Hahn, Laurie Metcalf, Blake Clark, Teddy Newton, Bud Luckey, Beatrice Miller, Javier Fernandez Pena, Timothy Dalton, Lori Alan, Charlie Bright, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Garlin, Bonnie Hunt, John Cygan, Jeff Pidgeon, Whoopi Goldberg, Jack Angel, R. Lee Ermey, Jan Rabson, Richard Kind
Written by: Michael Arndt, based on a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 103
Date: 12/06/2010

Toy Story 3 (2010)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

State of Play

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The geniuses at Pixar haven't necessarily improved upon Toy Story 2 (1999), but more than ten years later they have effectively repeated its themes and provided a terrific and funny summer adventure. Andy (voiced by John Morris, who has provided Andy's voice in all three films) has continued to grow, and is now ready for college. His mother has ordered him to clean out his room. Everything in it either goes with him to college, into the attic, or into the trash.

Through a series of misunderstandings, our favorite group of toys winds up donated to a daycare, where they believe Andy has cruelly dumped them. They receive a cheerful greeting from the avuncular Lotso (voice by Ned Beatty). Unfortunately, it turns out that Lotso runs the place like a prison and our heroes are going to have to do their time in the horrible toddler ward, where they are colored on, drooled on, and shoved up noses. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) has been singled out to accompany Andy to college, and so he attempts to rescue his old pals from this terrible place. What follows is a massively complicated, and ever escalating escape attempt (with nods to classics like The Great Escape), which culminates in an extraordinary sequence inside a giant trash disposal device. There's also a race against time; the toys must return home before Andy leaves.

The great bonus of the Pixar chase movies is that the action is always so clean and well conceived. Every twist and turn is clear and exciting and always makes logical and emotional sense. By now, all the toys have their own well-established personalities and relationships, and the movie wastes no time setting them up. Of course, there's Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack), Mr. Potato Head (voiced by Don Rickles), Red (voiced by Wallace Shawn), Mrs. Potato Head (voiced by Estelle Harris), Hamm the piggy bank (John Ratzenberger), and the little Martians. They're as comfortable a gang as the one on Ratzenberger's old TV show "Cheers." Woody and Buzz especially have become such good buddies that they can even convey information to one another with just a glance.

As for the new characters, Michael Keaton provides the hilarious voice of Ken, who works for the evil Lotso. He falls for Barbie (voiced by Jodi Benson), who has come along with our toys, as a refugee from Andy's sister's room. "It's as if we're made for each other!" Ken says. Keaton probably gets most of the laughs here, but it's a very balanced screenplay, written by a Pixar newbie, the Oscar winner Michael Arndt, of Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Director Lee Unkrich, Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter are credited in a story capacity. The last two Toy Story films had an army of writers, so it's amazing that the accomplished the same thing here with fewer cooks. (Look for a small cameo by Totoro, by the way.)

Overall, the production feels like a step back from such achievements as WALL-E (2008) and Up (2009), and it feels a bit desperate to dig back 11 years for sequel ideas, but the Pixar crew has never scrimped in quality, and even if they haven't created a masterpiece, they have created one heck of an enjoyable entertainment. Fortunately, the new feature does come with a masterful new short, their best in years, entitled Day & Night.

Disney has released a spectacular four-disc set that includes a DVD copy and a digital copy as well as two Blu-Rays (not in 3D, thank goodness). Disc one includes Day & Night, and disc two includes a trivia game, and several featurettes.

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