Saturday, June 19, 2010

Some Sequels are OK

Toy Story 3 a Treat for Adults... Kids Too

In a summer of sequels, some are better than others.
“Toy Story 3” is better; way better than “Shrek 4,” for instance.
The folks at Pixar Studios have always been strong on creativity. This third installment of a 15-year-old franchise is the most adult of what began as a children’s fantasy in 1995.
Andy Davis, the little 6-year-old boy whose quarreling favorite toys provided the impetus for a toys-come-to-life comic adventure, is now 18 and getting ready to go off to college.
Mom has ordered Andy to clean out his room. What he is not taking to college he will either have to put in the attic for storage or put trash bags for the garbage truck.
As Woody, the string-pull talking Sheriff/cowboy puppet is Andy’s first and favorite toy, we see him put Woody in the box marked “college”
Thanks to a mix-up, the rest of the toys are put in a black plastic garbage bag and set out with the trash.
The toys spring to life whenever Andy is not around, and you just know Woody is not going to let his friends be unceremoniously dumped in a landfill.
The clever and inventive screenplay, by written series creator John Lasseter, Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and a couple others, gets the toys a last-minute reprieve that sends them to a day care center instead of the dump. The wee Caterpillar kids of SunnySide Day Care are not much better than the destructive Sid Phillips was in the first film. Worse, SunnySide is ruled by the soft-talking but malignant Lotso, a plush purple bear (voice of Ned Beatty) and his menacing minions.
Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the rest of the toy gang are back, but there are some interesting newcomers, starting with Ned Beatty’s troubled, battered bear. The funniest of these is Ken (Michael Keaton), Barbie Doll’s boyfriend, who lives in a groovy 1970s-era dollhouse pad with a fabulous wardrobe closet.
“I am not a girl’s toy,” Ken insists petulantly, while adults wink and nudge.
Mr. Pricklepants the hedgehog (Timothy Dalton) is an Actor, don’t you know, and you wouldn’t want with mess with Chuckles (Bud Luckey), the grim-faced clown, or the creepy Big Baby, who may not talk, but is plenty scary.
“Toy Story 3” is in fact the scariest of the series, building to a cliff-hanging, raging inferno kind of finale. The jolts are interspersed with delightful comic interludes, as when Buzz Lightyear’s vocabulary (and entire attitude) is switched to Spanish ((voice by Javier Fernandez Pena).
It has been 11 years since Toy Story 2, but this is well-worth the wait. This could well be the end of the series, but as Buzz Lightyear hints, “This isn’t goodbye.”
Take that Shrek!
“Toy Story 3” will be shown in 3-D IMAX format through June 27 at the Museum of Science & Discovery and in 3-D at other theaters.

Three and a half stars


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