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NOTE: Audience, I apologize for my long absence in 2010.  Due to a horrid season, I have avoided the popcorn palaces all winter/spring except for “Alice In Wonderland,” which bored me and gave me a headache.  Finally 2010 has a film worth writing about.


Only Pixar could show the rest of the industry how to make a finale in a trilogy.  “Toy Story 3” is as warm, prescient and funny as the originals.  Children will giggle at the new characters and cuddle up to the familiar friends, young adults will laugh at the visual and dialogue puns and allusions, while those of us hitting middle age will cringe knowing Woody the Cowboy and his gang’s agony, feeling like they’ve outstayed their welcome in this world and have become irrelevant.

“Toy Story 3” takes place almost a decade after the second.  Young Andy has grown up and is about to leave for college.  The fate of the Toys, including Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jesse (Joan Cusack) and the Potato Heads (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) wait in the balance.  Would Andy really take them with him to college even though he hasn’t played with them in years? Will he let them sit unattended in the attic where they at least can live together in peace? Will he dump them in the trash?

A mishap leaves them donated to a child care center where a bunch of wild animal children practically rip the Toys to shreds.  They have become the bottom rung in a ladder led by a totalitarian stuffed pink bear (Ned Beatty) and a pretentious Ken Doll (Michael Keaton).  But Woody and his gang have teamwork on their side and they’ve gotten out of worse situations than Sunnyside Day.

The cast is as charming as usual.  As the ring leader, Woody shows his usual stubbornness, but loyalty and ingenuity.  He’s the MacGyver of the digital age.  Buzz has some great bits, particularly when his programming goes haywire ala espanol.  The rest of the clan feels like family. 

Of the new characters, Lots-O’Hugs Bear feels like a retread of Kelsey Grammer’s Stinky Pete, even up to the same tricks as “Toy Story 2”’s villain.  Keaton is hilarious as the foppish Ken Doll; a primped and preened pretty boy who’s love for Barbie is suspect. The gargantuan baby doll with superhuman strength is strikingly menacing since it towers over all the other toys.

 Long time Pixar employee, but first time solo Director, Lee Unkrich keeps audiences from wondering “what’s the point? “ something that sequels cause many to ask.  He has a story to tell, not just an opportunity to rake in more bucks for the Disney folks (though that will happen anyway.) As always in a Pixar film, no one in the audience feels the tale is condescending.  Entertainment is the creator’s main function, along with a bit of subtext. The characters are forced to confront realizations that many of us fight to avoid.  Who hasn’t felt too old to be in the singles market, or too old to win or hold onto a job?  These toys had a function, to bring joy to Andy.  Now that Andy doesn’t need him, what is their life purpose?  That’s heady stuff for G rated films.

The script by Oscar Nominee Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”) perfectly balances the jokes with the empathy.

I am not a fan of 3-D.  I don’t think the good outweighs the annoyance of the glasses and the strain they place on the eyes.  And though “Toy Story 3” would have been perfectly beautiful without the 3-D, I must admit the characters popping off the screen enhances the experience, unlike in “Alice in Wonderland” where 3-D felt like an afterthought to jump on the Avatar bandwagon.  Grade: A-

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