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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Film's second sequel doesn't 'Toy' around

Toy Story 3

Film's second sequel doesn't 'Toy' around

Fifteen years ago, Michael Jordan came out of retirement, leading the Chicago Bulls to the best record in NBA history. Fifteen years ago, the United States was rocked by the Oklahoma City bombings, forcing the closure of parts of the White House. And 15 years ago on Nov. 22, ""Toy Story,"" the first ever full-length computer animated film hit theaters, grossing $362 million worldwide and establishing the Pixar/Disney standard of excellence that has been unrivaled by any other studio. ""Toy Story 3"" manages to succeed not only as a children's film, but as an exercise in nostalgia for a generation of twentysomethings who grew up saying ""you've got a friend in me.""

The action picks back up with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys concocting elaborate schemes to get Andy to play with them. Unfortunately, Andy is about to head to college, and even stealing his cell phone can't pique Andy's interest in his former playmates. However, even though Andy doesn't want to play with his toys, he does want to store them in the attic, a modest fate for the toys. Of course, as it so often does in the ""Toy Story"" films, plans go awry and the toys end up at Sunnyside Daycare, a seemingly idyllic nursery on the other side of town. Greeted by Sunnyside's congenial leader, a pink huggable bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty), the toys find new friends (or in the case of Barbie, a new love interest in the form of a patently metrosexual Ken doll) and more importantly, an unlimited supply of children who will play with them. Still, Woody feels attached to Andy, and can't bring himself to accept a future without the boy whose name resides on the bottom of his foot.

What sets ""Toy Story 3"" apart from its predecessors is its willingness to nostalgically draw upon the first two films to satisfy an older crowd, while still entertaining those too young to be able to recite Buzz Lightyear's catchphrases by rote. The opening sequence is a grandiose re-imagining of the opening scene to ""Toy Story,"" with Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm and others reprising their roles as the bank robbing villains who only heroic Sheriff Woody can stop. But instead of Andy simply controlling the toys' actions and voices, the entire scene feels like a big-budget action sequence, complete with space ships, derailed trains and flashy 3D visuals. Older viewers might even miss small nods to the first film, including the satanic child Sid from the first film, reprising his role in a brief cameo as a headbanging garbage collector.

Still, despite the film's celebration of older viewers, ""Toy Story 3"" has its eye on new audiences and even new markets. After Buzz's wiring is reset, he suddenly becomes ""Spanish Buzz,"" a smooth-talking casanova whose actions seem entirely dictated by salsa music. The gimmick is not only very funny, but very current, given the extent that the Hispanic-American population has been victimized by racist immigration laws and blowhard cable news talking heads as of late. Director John Lasseter's decision to include a Spanish version of the Randy Newman classic ""You've Got a Friend in Me"" not only solidifies the film's desire to reach new demographics, but also extends an olive branch to the Spanish-speaking community, simply saying ""somos amigo en mi.""

The only drawback to the third film may be the sheer number of new characters audiences are expected to keep track of. One particular scene finds Woody in one of the girl's from daycare's home, where he meets an entirely new cast of a half dozen toys, all with notable voice actors portraying them. Coupling that group with the Andy's original nine toys, a dozen or so Sunnyside toys and four or five live characters, even the most ardent Pixar fan may be confused, which probably means the five-year-olds littering the theater are befuddled too.

On the whole, ""Toy Story 3"" assuages fears Pixar is running out of ideas and resorting to sequels as a simple means of profit. With its usual blend of likable characters and heartfelt moments, the film is sure to make you laugh, cry and once again thank your lucky stars that Pixar is continuing to raise the standard for animated films worldwide.

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