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Movie Review: Toy Story 3

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"I wish I could always be with you."

Audiences know the title says it all. A story about toys, simple as it seems. Pixar filmmakers continue to stretch their considerable talents while walking a fine line between the positive and negative aspects of having toys come to life.

Andy goes to college in the third installment of the award-winning Toy Story film series as adventures continue at a day care playroom and beyond. Filmmakers increase the sentiment and danger in this quality tale while still piling on the fun with increased interactions among toys and human characters outside Andy’s house. Toy Story 3 reunites Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and Woody (Tom Hanks) plus piggy bank Ham, dog Slink, dinosaur Rex, Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, and Woody’s faithful horse Bullseye.

Many toys from this base group had to “break the rules” to survive the abusive terror of Sid, who also has a quick cameo in this film, in the first Toy Story. In this installment, some antagonistic toys impose their own set of misguided rules while the human characters expand significantly as filmmakers flesh out their emotional attachments to these special toys and each other.

The large character list functions incredibly well in the plot while three key characters from Andy's room are delegated to “new owners” to make room for new the characters that include Ken (Michael Keaton); Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton); and Lots-o’-Huggin Bear (voiced by Ned Beatty), who actually had a cameo appearance under a bed in Pixar’s previous film Up.

A new set of neighborhood toys also provides some laughs and key background information for the protagonist characters. “We do a lot of improv,” says horse toy Buttercup (voiced by Jeff Garlin) who is also joined by Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), a triceratops Trixie (Kristen Schall), and others.

Andy’s Mom, his sister Molly, and a new character named Bonnie come into full view this time as the human characters play expanded roles, especially during an incredibly sweet sequence in a front yard near the end. Another sweet sequence features a great interaction between Molly and Andy during playtime while initiating Andy’s progression into adulthood. Eventually his interaction with Molly includes some spats, but Andy and his family stay true to themselves overall and especially during a memorable ending sequence.

This high quality film uses filmmaking techniques including subtitles, flashbacks, and multiple camera angles to enhance its storytelling. Filmmakers use several effective techniques throughout that provide strong narrative support while beginning the film with a familiar and imaginative action sequence comparable to Toy Story 2, but with a different focus character. A beginning home movie sequence covers the time span perfectly and reorients everyone, especially audience members who were not even born since Toy Story 2 was released in 1999.

Loyal Woody is wary of Andy’s new direction as a teenager and his leadership is tested when other attention-starved toys want to parallel Andy’s life changes. “We all knew this day was coming,” says Woody. The group hits a key crossroad as another toy presents a new “no owners means no heartbreak” philosophy, which creates a wider scope.

Trust, misunderstandings, and genuine care drive the plot and Andy’s room still serves as the central location. The toys retain their physical characteristics with some great new variations. Woody’s long-legged runs and the Potato Head couple provide some nice comic highlights.

Returning composer Randy Newman sings his classic song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” along with a fun Spanish version and the new "We Belong Together" song at the ending credits. Audiences will also enjoy the "Night & Day" short before the film, which features a richly detailed background with two basic silhouette characters in forefront.

Toy Story 3 definitely requires more than one viewing so you can catch all the hidden jokes and references set in the background of several scenes. Fans will love the quick cameo voices and special character/object appearances from the previous installments.

After seeing Toy Story 2 almost 11 years ago, I sent a letter to Pixar on December 8, 1999 suggesting expansions and future ideas for a third film. Their response explained how they could not take “third party” ideas, but it was amazing to see some ideas visualized in the film while their creative directions all forged into an excellent filmmaking opus as well as an entertainment bonanza. Highly recommended and rated G. Also showing in 3D and IMAX theaters – a first for a Pixar film.

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