The toys are back in town 

Has Pixar set the bar too high? There’s nothing really wrong with “Toy Story 3” — on the contrary, there’s so much right that it would be tempting to overlook its shortcomings altogether. So it is only with slight hesitation that I applaud the conclusion of a memorable trilogy.

Why quibble? Pixar has once again created a spectacle unsurpassed in its visual brilliance and richness of detail. And the movie does not want for humor. The sight gags are mostly sharp, and the wordplay, which rarely condescends to the kids in the audience, is sophisticated and uncompromising.

The problem, though, is the pacing. Things start promisingly enough, as young Andy, now grown and heading to college, prepares to part with his once-precious toys.

That doesn’t sit well with Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), but their loyalty is unwavering. They are Andy’s BFFs, and no distance, emotional or physical, will change that.

Exiled to a day care center where playtime proves a full-contact sport, the core cast of toys, along with Barbie (Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”), finds the adjustment bumpy at best.

Woody, meanwhile, fights long odds to find Andy before he leaves.

At this point, the movie, for all its winsome invention, gets swept up in a whirlwind of daredevil heroics and desperate escapes.

Nobody’s rooting against the ever-purposeful Woody in his frenzied quest. But the climaxes never seem to stop. The result is a roller-coaster ride of stunts and jokes that range from the inspired (a thespian hedgehog over-earnestly reciting Shakespeare, brilliantly voiced by Timothy Dalton) to the distressingly obvious (an effeminate Ken doll, voiced by Michael Keaton, runway-modeling his duds).

The problem isn’t that the humor sometimes seems needlessly self-indulgent. It’s that the movie loses its emotional center.

The best Pixar movies appeal to our eyes and minds, but make an even more compelling bid for our hearts. “Toy Story 3” sometimes seems an exceedingly clever caper, but not much more.

When director Lee Unkrich re-establishes the emotional connection, with an achingly beautiful finale that speaks not only to Buzz and Woody’s fear of change, but also, possibly, to our own voyage into an uncertain future, the movie hits its mark. The coda recalls everything that made “Toy Story” beloved, and articulates it with moving clarity. Tears will be shed.

And why not? It’s been an exhilarating ride, this series. To “Toy Story 3,” I raise my glass. You’ll pardon me, though, if it’s only three-quarters full.

Toy Story 3

Three stars

Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton
Written by Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Rated G
Running time 1 hour 43 minutes

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
Pin It

Speaking of...

More by Staff Report

Latest in Other Arts

© 2019 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation