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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while Toy Story 3 -- the third movie in Pixar's flagship Toy Story franchise -- is bound to please moviegoers of all ages, it is scarier and more intense than the first two (which is why we've rated this "threequel" at a higher age than Toy Story and Toy Story 2). Overall, the latest adventure shared by Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of Andy's favorite toys is kid-friendly -- but there's a fairly long scene of the toys in serious peril toward the end of the movie that many 3- to 5-year-olds could find quite upsetting. There are also a few new toys that act a bit mean and creepy (particularly a Big Baby doll and a cymbal-clapping Monkey) and scenes in which favorite characters are trapped by cruel authority figures. But there are also wonderful, touching messages about friendship, loyalty, and imagination. Note: The 3-D version of the movie may make certain parts feel more immediate/lifelike, but the movie's intense scenes have a strong impact no matter which version you see.
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What's the story?
In TOY STORY 3, Andy (voiced by John Morris) is heading off to college, and his mom (Laurie Metcalf) asks him to clean out his old stuff. Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of Andy's favorite toys have survived yard sale after yard sale, but now the best they can hope for is a one-way ticket to the attic. After an unfortunate mix-up, the toys -- particularly Jessie (Joan Cusack) -- believe it's for the best if they jump into the donation box for Sunnyside Daycare. When they arrive, they're greeted by a cuddly purple bear called Lotso (Ned Beatty) and Ken (Michael Keaton), who get the gang -- including Bullseye, Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles, Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Blake Clarke), and Rex (Wallace Shawn) -- fired up to meet their new little playmates. But Andy's toys quickly realize that these toddlers don't so much play with toys as terrorize them .. and that Sunnyside isn't the toy paradise they thought it was. Now they'll have to use all of their ingenuity to escape their preschool prison.
Is it any good?
If only every "children's movie" could be this well-made and well-loved. The consistency of the voice cast (even Andy is played by the same actor, now in his 20s), the brilliant animation, and the many running jokes are just a few of the reasons this series has yet to go stale. And the clever new gags -- like when Buzz gets "reset" and ends up in Spanish mode, making poetic declarations of love to his señorita, Jessie -- offer some of the movie's highlights. The film's antagonists, led by Beatty's deceptively huggable Lotso, have a believable reason for acting so selfishly, and Keaton's Ken is hilariously clothes-obsessed (and sensitive about being called a "girl's toy"). In the end, every character gets to shine (Barbie, the aliens, a self-sacrificing Mr. Potato Head who gets very creative when the situation calls for it), and every toy gets the "happily ever after" they deserve.
Disney's Pixar is possibly the only studio in the history of Hollywood to bat a thousand. Even though some of their films end up having more adult appeal (Ratatouille and WALL-E probably don't get as much DVD rotation as Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc. in many kids' houses) than others, Pixar's films always surpass expectations. So it's absolutely no surprise that the third installment in the studio's Toy Story franchise is another winner. By now we love these toys, cheering them on through battles with Sid the sadistic tween neighbor, greedy Big Al, and selfish Stinky Pete. So when Andy tosses the toys in a trash bag, our hearts flutter -- and when that bag winds up in the donation box instead of a trash compactor, we sigh in relief. And when at one point it seems that our beloved heroes may have truly reached the end, we tense up -- or in the case of the preschoolers in the audience, shed a tear or two. (And if that moment doesn't get you, the scene in which Andy's mom looks around his empty room and bids him farewell certainly will.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the core group of toys in Toy Story 3 have had to change since Andy's gotten older. How are they different? Who's missing, and why? What is the movie saying about childhood, play, and toys that mean a lot to kids?
Even though Andy's about to head off to college, he ultimately takes a moment to rediscover his favorite toys. Which of your toys do you think will stay with you forever? Parents, tell your kids about your beloved toys that you kept until you were grown up.
Why is Lotso so angry? Why is his motto "no owner, no heartbreak"?
How does the third movie compare to the first two? Which one do you like most and why? What is the role of consumerism in the Toy Story movie franchise?
- In theaters: June 18, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: November 2, 2010
- Cast: Joan Cusack, Tim Allen, Tom Hanks
- Director: Lee Unkrich
- Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Humility, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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