Toy Story 3: Hugs-a-lot Does Smell
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I'm not usually one to go and see the big summer blockbuster on the day of its theater release, but today was an exception, because we were celebrating my son's fourth birthday, and the characters in this movie are familar favorites in our family's personal DVD collection.
The third movie in the Toy Story trilogy provided a worthy conclusion to the story that involves Andy, his single parent Mom, sister Molly, and a roomful of toys who love him. This warm-hearted family feature by Pixar includes all of the characters you have grown to love in the Toy Story movies, and introduces a few new toys.
Though, as I expected, this Toy Story movie uses some familiar plot devices, there are plenty of new developments to keep this story fresh, including a plot that pokes fun at the virtues of recycling.
In Toy Story 3, Andy is almost grown up. He's 17, going to college in a few days, and his Mother has told him to get his room ship-shape. Molly, now a precocious pre-teen who is plugged in and too old for Barbies, is ready to take over his room. Where will the toys end up? In the attic, being donated, or in the garbage?
Andy's room is no longer the toy friendly paradise decorated with character blankets and cowboy dolls. The toys have been relegated to storage in the old toy box, where they haven't been touched for years. Movie posters adorn the walls from floor to ceiling, and smelly socks and apple cores litter the floor. I found it difficult to see Andy's mom, who was in her twenties when the first Toy Story movie was released, aged to her early forties. Her timeline wasn't too different from my own, and this set a realistic and almost bittersweet tone to the movie for me. Her family has grown up with mine and I was surprised by the emotions this tugged on me.
Well, I won't spoil the whole plot for you, but somehow the toys make it to Sunnyside Preschool, where things aren't quite what they seem. The toys are warmly welcomed by Hugs-alot bear, a worn old overstuffed teddy who still smells like strawberries. Their adventure at and escape from the preschool fills most of the action sequences for this movie, which I felt were a little too intense for my four year old. If you are taking young children to see this flick, make sure to plan for some hand-holding or even possibly some lap sitting.
One of the bad guy characters acts as an enforcer and henchman for the preschool toys. He is a half-naked baby doll with a broken eye. This character hies back to the spike-haired baby-doll head who crawls out from under the bed at Syd's house in the first Toy Story movie . I found this particular character a little too creepy. The baby sounds just like a giggling, cooing infant, and the contradiction between the way he looked and sounded gave me the creeps. Some of the other plot elements were recycled as well. I suppose I expected this from a third movie in a trilogy, and doing so lends familiarity and recalls favorite jokes from the other movies. Fortunately there is enough fresh new material to keep the movie interesting and engaging.
Overall, this Toy Story movie delivers on the action and personalities that have become a hallmark of the Toy Story franchise. Woody remains the fearless, courageous leader who never stops believing in Andy, even when he is the only toy who hasn't stopped believing in their teenaged owner.
Buzz has an identity crisis, as we have come to expect in each Toy Story movie. This time he falls into the hands of the bad guys and he becomes a Spanish-speaking Don Juan, who expresses his feelings for Jessie with bravado. The Potato Heads add some hilarious, wise-cracking humor throughout the movie, and even the squeaky space aliens continue their delusions with hilarious results.
But unlike the other Toy Story movies, the tone of this one is darker and more final. Don't expect a light-hearted frolic from this theater experience. The toys have to come to grips with the fact that they their relationship with Andy has changed. And this is a heady reminder that the child I brought to the movie on his fourth birthday won't stay frozen in that innocent little body forever. Audiences will be faced with the realities that children grow up and become adults, leaving childhood forever behind.
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