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Toy Story 3

Opens June 18

Hello friends: Ken, Lotsa, and Big Baby welcome you with open arms.

By Lee Gardner | Posted 6/18/2010

People often point to Pixar as a bright new generation of kids entertainment vs. Boomer-nostalgic Disney (which owns it), but the animation studio's last two films have dwelled on retirement and facing mortality. First there was the melancholy last-gasp adventure of Up, and now Toy Story 3, in which Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of the old-toy gang face their options as their now almost grown owner Andy prepares to head off to college: scattered via yard sale, entombed in the attic, or buried in a landfill.

The previous Toy Story movies featured flashes of the pain and desperation of toys, like pets, desperate for their owners' love and attention. In 3 it's nearly constant, with the toys devising elaborate schemes to recapture Andy's attention and being stricken when they fail. A Rube Goldberg plot machination sends them on their way to neighborhood preschool Sunnyside, where it seems their deferred dreams of a lifetime of affection and use will come true amid a horde of new kids. (Wallace Shawn, voicing dinosaur toy Rex, gives his refrain of "I'm gonna get played with" a near carnal intensity). But Sunnyside's name turns out to be a sinister joke thanks to a faux-folksy strawberry-scented teddy named Lotso (Ned Beatty) and his genuinely creepy henchman, a Tim Burton-esque doll known as Big Baby. Suddenly, TS3 is a prison-break flick.

This isn't to say there's nothing for the kids here: Woody (Tom Hanks again) gets up to some serious rubber-limbed slapstick and the usual Pixar whimsy, wit, and sense of adventure are right in place. (As is its attention to detail, from a perfect CG rendering of the folds of an old dog's hairy belly flab to including that one house on every perfect suburban block whose yard could use mowing.) But this is a much darker film than the previous two, with villains that are genuinely ominous for the first time and a grandiose climax that finds our heroes threatened with grim destruction at every turn. While younger kids will mostly likely love it (Pixar knows its stuff), they may want to watch the last half from your lap. Regardless, its most poignant meetings and partings are clearly aimed directly at the parents in the audience, just like the running Ken (Michael Keaton) and Barbie (Jodi Benson) gags. Let's not kid ourselves.

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