It’s been 15 years since Woody, Buzz and the gang emerged in the “Toy Story” and 11 years since the first sequel. Now Disney/Pixar has come up with a third episode that’s bigger (3-D!), perhaps cleverer and certainly delightful.
Opening with a rootin’ tootin’ action, screenwriter Michael Arndt (Oscar winner for “Little Miss Sunshine”) and director Lee Unkrich (co-director of “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters Inc,” “Finding Nemo”) create a traumatic dilemma for the beloved characters.
18 year-old Andy (John Morris) is off to college and his mom (Laurie Metcalf) has told him to clean up his bedroom and sort his stuff. But instead of heading for attic storage, the outgrown toys wind up at Sunnyside Daycare Center. At first, Hamm the pink piggybank (John Ratzenberger), Jessie the cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles, Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Brian Clark) and Rex the Dinosaur (Wallace Shawn) are excited. They’re going to be played with! And Andy’s sister Molly’s discarded Barbie (Jodi Benson) finds bachelor Ken (Michael Keaton) with his dream house. But then reality dawns: the screaming horde of terrorizing toddlers seems set on abuse and destruction. And Lots-o’-Huggin’ (Ned Beatty), a strawberry-scented pink plush bear, rules like a dictator. Their only friend is Bonnie (Emily Hahn), the daughter of a daycare worker, who introduces a lederhosen-wearing hedgehog, Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), along with Trixie the Triceratops (Kristen Schaal), Buttercup the unicorn (Jeff Garlin), doll Dolly (Bonnie Hunt) Peas-in-a-Pod and others. So Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) – who accidentally gets switched to Spanish mode – must devise a daring prison break to get back where they belong, to be passed along to another generation.
As always with Pixar, the animation is visually glorious and Randy Newman’s music adds yet another dimension to the poignant humor and adventure. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to10, “Toy Story 3” is a nostalgic 10, a loving, heartfelt treat for the kid in all of us. “Toy Story” may be the most treasured animated trilogy of all time.