June 26, 2010

MOVIES: Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)

Pixar's remarkable series of successful movies continues, with the darkest movie in the Toy Story series. There are adult themes and action sequences here that may be too much for the smallest kids, and a final scene that is tremendoubly moving.

Woody, Buzz, and the gang face an uncertain fate as Andy prepares to leave for college? Will he take them with him? Put them in the attic for safekeeping? Or might they even be (horrors!) thrown away?

Their ultimate fate may be even worse than the dumpster, as they wind up at the Sunnyside Day Care Center in the hands of rambunctious toddlers who haven't yet learned how to play nicely with their toys. (The first scene with the toddlers plays like a ramped-up action-movie take on the early Pixar short Tin Toy.)

Running the show at Sunnyside is Lotso (a fine voice performance by Ned Beatty, channelling every sleazy prison warden and syrupy southern Senator the movies have ever given us), a strawberry-scented tyrant with a tragic backstory; his presence turns Toy Story 3 into a spectacular riff on prison-break movies, as Woody works to rescue his friends from Sunnyside.

Lotso isn't the only new character. Timothy Dalton has some funny moments as Mr. Pricklepants, a porcupine who thinks of himself as quite the thespian; and Michael Keaton is spectacularly funny as Ken, who loves Barbie almost as much as he loves his Dream House and extensive wardrobe.

And of course, all of our old favorites are back, and everyone gets a moment of heroism -- Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm, Slinky Dog, Jessie, the claw-worshiping aliens. Even Andy himself, who has been largely a background character in the first two movies, gets a few moments in the spotlight, and if his final scene doesn't have your eyes misting over, then you're tougher than I am.

(I very much liked this take on the movie from the Double X blog at Slate, arguing that the movie's real subject is parenthood.)

Preceding the movie is the short Day and Night, which cleverly combines Pixar's trademark 3-D computer animation with rounded, bouncy 2-D animated figures who reminded me of the UPA style from the 1950s and 1960s.

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