Ed reviews 'Toy Story 3' 

4 stars, (G)

click to enlarge toy_story_3.jpg

First and foremost, don't see Toy Story 3 in 3D. There is no need to pay extra. The 3D effect is incidental for most of the running time and I suspect the colors will appear brighter in the 2D version.

I'll be using the word "incidental" again soon, but first, let me state clearly that it's a pleasure to see Woody, Buzz and all the other toys one more time. The Pixar film looks great, the music is spot-on, there's lots of laughs, some sweet and sad moments, and plenty of action. I'm giving it 4 stars, the equivalent of a B grade in school.

"B" is a very good grade, but it's not an "A," my rating for Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Here's why: The first two films felt like full-fledged stories. They mattered. Toy Story 3 seems incidental. While it's certainly fun to watch, this installment feels tacked on. I don't want to be a buzz-kill, but I noticed the difference and I suspect some of you will too.

The difference between the first two films and this one is the difference between being told a well-composed story and listening to a kid's narrative as he or she plays with toys in the backyard. It's the difference between watching a popular franchise film and watching an episode of a TV series based on it. It's the difference between viewing a vintage episode of The Simpsons and reading a Simpsons comic book.

Pixar is an amazing organization full of greatly talented people, of course, so the difference is less noticeable than in the examples I cited. I guess it all boils down to this: Toy Story and Toy Story 2 had to be there. Toy Story 3 is incidental.

I won't go into detail about the plot. Suffice to say that it all builds up to a big jail break from a daycare center. Along with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), and Barbie (Jodi Benson), some new toys are introduced.

Lotso, a strawberry-scented stuffed bear, is voiced by Ned Beatty, who comes off all Burl Ives-y at first, but later ... We also meet the highly-dramatic hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton) and a ditzy triceratops named Trixie (Kristen Schaal).

And then there's Ken, perfectly voiced by Michael Keaton. Barbie's dream date is presented just the way he's portrayed in God knows how many jokes over the years, as a shallow, self-absorbed pretty boy obsessed with his incredibly cheesy wardrobe and various accessories. The first meeting between Barbie and Ken is a riot, as are Ken's protests later that he's not "a girl's toy."

That's about that. Toy Story 3 isn't in the same league as its predecessors, but it's close enough that most people won't care. Heck, I don't care that much. But if anybody starts talking about a Toy Story 4, I'm going to get cranky.

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