Toy Story 3: Factory guarantee | Reviews | Creative Loafing Charlotte
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Toy Story 3: Factory guarantee 

Three-peats may be rare in the sports world, but they're even harder to achieve in the cinematic realm. Yet here comes Toy Story 3, bucking the odds and satisfying sky-high expectations to emerge as the perfect final chapter in a trilogy that's guaranteed to live on for generations (to infinity and beyond?).

It's been a long time since 1995's Toy Story broke ground as the first computer-animated feature film, and nearly as long since 1999's Toy Story 2 was crowned by many as one of the few sequels to improve on the original (personally speaking, I find it too close to call). And in the interim, Pixar has proven itself so adept at making unique gems that no one would have faulted the company for resting on its laurels for this one occasion and grinding out a cash-cow sequel bereft of anything new. But that's not how head honcho John Lasseter and his team play. Toy Story 3 is its own one-of-a-kind treat, and it's unlikely that I'll see another movie all year that does such a masterful job of mixing disparate emotions with all the speed and accuracy of a blender whipping up strawberry daiquiris.

In this outing, Andy is set to go to college and has to decide what to do with the few remaining toys from his childhood, all stuck in a box that has been gathering dust under his bed for years. Luckily for us, Andy's favorites are our favorites, so rest assured that all of the series regulars are back, including Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack). But the first heart-tugging moment comes when we learn that Woody's sweetheart, Bo Peep, is "no longer with us" -- audiences had best brace themselves for plenty more eye-moistening incidents.

Through miscommunication, the gang ends up at a daycare center, where the toy-in-charge, Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty), promises them a playhouse paradise. But things aren't quite what they seem, and Woody, ever loyal to Andy no matter the cost to his own future, plots a great escape. In true Toy Story fashion, this allows plenty of opportunities for Buzz to display his heroism, Jessie to show off her spunk, Rex (Wallace Shawn) to bemoan his lot in life, and Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) and Hamm (John Ratzenberger) to let fly with the sarcastic remarks.

The strawberry-scented Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear is basically a better-smelling Stinky Pete (from TS2), but in other respects, this movie is careful to avoid repeating its predecessors. There are some memorable new characters (including the immaculately groomed Ken, voiced by Michael Keaton), and the four screenwriters -- Lasseter, director Lee Unkrich, Pixar vet Andrew Stanton and Little Miss Sunshine Oscar winner Michael Arndt -- superbly tap into the feelings all of us have encountered during our respective childhoods, when we employed our toys as a passageway to new worlds and new experiences. Toy Story 3 may look like a family film, but as it tackles issues of loss, identity and self-worth, it reveals itself as the most adult movie out there.




STARS Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

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