Toy Story 3
It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 11 years since Toy Story 2 was released. Since then, Disney and Pixar Animation have cranked out seven other hugely-successful films in the genre -- including my personal favorite movie of last year, Up. And to think this genius partnership all began with the original Toy Story back in 1995. So after all this time, was yet another sequel to the ground-breaking film worth the wait? You bet!
The film opens with Andy all grown-up and headed to college. His favorite toys have long sat unused, while his mother (Laurie Metcalf) is pressuring him to either trash, donate or store his belongings in the attic. Without giving much away, most of the toys -- including Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) -- end up at what appears to be a picture-perfect day care center. At first, the toys are thrilled to have the chance to be played again -- but things sure take a turn for the worse when they realize that the center's toys are ruled by the grossly misnamed Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty). Now it's up to Woody (Tom Hanks) to rescue his friends.
Besides being a fulfilling adventure story, Toy Story 3 succeeds as a great sequel because it finds the perfect mix of returning favorites and interesting newcomers. Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Barbie (Jodi Benson) and the Aliens (Jeff Pidgeon) are among the returning toys. In addition to the evil Lots-O'-Huggin, newbies include Ken (in a hilarious turn by Michael Keaton) and Stretch (Whoopi Goldberg). But it's Disney/Pixar's decision to stick with John Morris as the voice of Andy that resonates the most with me (yes, the same actor voiced the role as a kid in the first two films). Watching Andy deal with his transition to adulthood is very bittersweet -- so don't be surprised if you're moved to tears. But rest-assured, you'll be completely emotionally satisfied with the results.
So here we are half-way through the calendar year and we finally have a movie that I highly recommend you see -- no matter what your age is. It's directed with great skill by Lee Unkrich (who also helmed the last in the series) and sharply written by Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine). And Randy Newman returns with another winning score. [Rated G; opens tomorrow]
- The film will be shown in regular format, 3D and 3D IMAX. My screening was in 3D -- but honestly, don't stress out about seeing it only in 2D. It's a winner in any format.
- Click here for PopEater's article and video interview with John Morris (Andy).
- Sadly, not all the voice actors from the previous films lived to participate this time around. Jim Varney (Slinky Dog) and Joe Ranft (Lenny and Wheezy) both passed away since the second film was released.
- On a more cheerful note -- here's hoping your screening also includes the short film Day & Night. It focuses on what happens when an animated personification of daytime (Day) meets his polar opposite, nighttime (Night). Simple -- and yet so perfect both visually and in its message.
- And don't forget to stick around for the feature's closing credits -- there are plenty of laughs to leave you smiling as you exit the theater.