Where the Toys Are

In Toy Story 3, Andy's off to college, and the Potato Heads go wild at daycare.

One question seems to be on everybody’s mind: Is it as good as the last one? It’s a reasonable question.

Toy Story 2, released in 1999 — was so good, it almost made people forget the fantastic, groundbreaking original.

But the fair and balanced answer to the question is: Yes and no.

As with every Disney-Pixar collaboration, this one is chockablock with big laughs, dollops of peril, and a sizable chunk of teary-eyed emotionalism. We now know these characters well, and there aren’t any major new wrinkles in their makeup here. Neither is the story as heart-tugging as the one in its predecessor. But the animation is better than ever. You could watch Toy Story 3 a dozen times and never tire of looking around the screen to see what’s going on behind the main action.

And action is what this one is all about — certainly in the lengthy opening sequence, which turns out to be one of the wildest beginnings of any movie ... ever.

Ah, but it’s only a flashback, one inside the active imagination of young Andy who, it’s soon revealed, is now 17 and ready to head off to college. But first, insists mom, he’s got to do something about all of those old toys that he hasn’t touched for years. It’s either up in the attic with them or out in the trash.

Of course, there’s a third choice, too, and it doesn’t involve Andy hauling them all off to his new dorm room. So begins a new adventure for Woody, Buzz, the Potato Heads, and all the gang.

There’s unrest among them all when they realize what’s going on. “We’ll never get played with again,” laments Rex, always a whiner.

“Don’t worry, Andy’s gonna take care of us,” drawls Woody, the eternal optimist.

Misunderstandings ensue, as does a trip to Sunnyside Daycare. Every toy (except for wise Woody) is excited to be at Sunnyside, because a daycare means that there are always new kids coming in, there are no regular owners, and toys can control their own destinies.

Which all leads to the reason that you can leave the kids home for this one. Oh, there’s nothing they won’t like about it, and the terror quotient isn’t any higher than in any other Disney-Pixar film. But there’s just so much more for adult audiences to enjoy.

Amid sight gags galore, there’s a hierarchy to be dealt with at Sunnyside involving the new arrivals and the toys that have been there a while. There’s also some treachery, and even a bit of racy behavior when Barbie meets Ken.

Kids will enjoy the mostly cuddly toys and the antics of our heroes, but it’s the adults who will laugh and squirm and nod knowingly at the destructive tendencies of the film’s toddlers. It’s the grownups who will get into the psychology and questionable behavior of a big pink bear named Lotso.

Toy Story 3 does rehash a couple of old plot points — one involving the reprogramming of Buzz, another dealing with a scary ride on a conveyor belt. But it also channels the exploits of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and makes it necessary to (comically) include subtitles. To that end, a nice bonus is Randy Newman’s familiar song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” done up in Spanish by Gipsy Kings.

One other question: Do you need to see the film in 3D? Let’s put it this way. Toy Story 3 is no Avatar, and it doesn’t make use of 3D in any distinctive ways. Save yourselves a few bucks and catch it in 2D.