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Out of the 'Toy' box

Published June 23. 2010 05:00PM

After 11 years ("Toy Story 2," 1999) and some 15 years after the original ("Toy Story," 1995), favorite friends return to the big screen in "Toy Story 3," this time in 3-D.

It's fun to see Cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and the gang back, including Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Rex (Wallace Shawn). New toys include Lotso (Ned Beatty), a not-so-cuddly purple bear with a strawberry scent.

In "TS3," Andy's now 17 and packing for college. His childhood toys survived "every yard sale" and "every spring cleaning." What should Andy and his mother do: Put the toys in a cardboard box in the attic, donate them to a day-care center, or put them on the curb for trash pickup? The toys soon discover their idyllic days of playtime are gone.

"TS3," with a screenplay by Michael Arndt ("Little Miss Sunshine") from a story by John Lasseter (director, "Cars," "Toy Story 2"), Andrew Stanton (writer-director, "Wall-E") and the movie's director Lee Unkrich (co-director "Finding Nemo," "Monster Inc," "Toy Story 2"), invokes tried-and-true Hollywood screenplay elements.

Ken (Michael Keaton) and Barbie (Jodi Benson) have their moment to the tune of Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver," when they meet, and Chic's "Le Freak," when they play dress-ups (the Nehru jacket does him in), as any female child might do with her Ken and Barbie dolls.

There's a hilarious scene when Buzz starts speaking Spanish and romances Jessie. The big laughs occur when Mr. Potato Head exchanges his plastic body for a taco shell to become a fluid figure as if from a Salvador Dali painting. The movie's emotional payoff occurs in the denouement when Andy and his toys achieve renewed purpose.

The voices are great, especially that of Tom Hanks, with his confident and enthusiastic reading. "We need a staff meeting," says Woody and you believe him.

"TS3" has incredible detail: Andy's room, where doorsill markings monitor his physical growth; the daycare center, right down to the cubbies (cubbyholes for toy storage); and even the landfill, where an incredible amount of junk rains down on the hapless toys.

The animators have successfully created emotion-filled eyes, skin tones that blush and seem flesh-like, and limp toys that spring to life.

"TS3" is one 3-D movie that doesn't have to be seen in this format. There are few eye-popping 3-D effects. It's almost as if the "TS3" film-makers added 3-D as an afterthought. Scenes in "TS3" are about 10 percent darker than those in the 2-D version. Many "TS3" scenes take place in the evening or at night.

The film-makers do their best to think out of the toy box and, for the most part, succeed, although the movie seems longer than necessary. Mistreatment of some of the toys may be too emotionally-disturbing for some children.

Ironically, "Toy Story 3" will spawn new toys in stores and promotional tie-ins that parents may buy for their children, who may one day relegate the toys to similar fates as those of toys in the movie.

Arrive in time to see the entertaining Pixar animated short, "Day & Night," shown before "Toy Story 3."

"TOY STORY 3": MPAA Rated G (General Audiences. All Ages Admitted); Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy: Run Time: 1 hr., 43 min.; Distributed by Disney-Pixar

CREDIT READERS ANONYMOUS: Several "Toy Story 3" plot points are resolved during the end credits, which include a version of Randy Newman's title song, "You've Got a Friend In Me," sung and performed in Spanish by the Gipsy Kings.

BOX OFFICE, June 18: "Toy Story 3" kicked the summer movie season up a notch, with a Father's Day weekend opening at No. 1 with $109 million. The June 18 opening of $41 million set a new opening day gross for an animated movie opening on a Friday, surpassing $38.4 million, set by "Shrek the Third."

"The Karate Kid" dropped to No. 2, with a nice $29 million, $106.2 million, two weeks.

3. "The A-Team," $13.7 million, $49.7 million, two weeks; 4. "Get Him to the Greek," $6.1 million, $47.8 million, three weeks; 5. "Shrek Forever After," $5.5 million, $222.9 million, five weeks; 6. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," $5.2 million, $80.5 million, four weeks; 7. "Killers," $5.1 million; $39.4 million; 8. Movie-goers put the hex on "Jonah Hex," opening with only $5 million; 9. "Iron Man 2," $2.6 million, $304.7 million, seven weeks; 10. "Marmaduke," $2.6 million, $27.9 million.

UNREEL, June 25:

"GROWN UPS," MPAA Rated PG-13: Adam Sandler reunites with director Dennis Dugan ("You Don't Mess with the Zohan") for a screenplay he co-wrote. Sandler stars with Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider in a comedy about a high school friends reuniting on the July 4th weekend. The movie also stars Selma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph.

"KNIGHT AND DAY," MPAA Rated PG-13: (Opening June 23): Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz star in a comedy-thriller directed by James Mangold ("3:10 to Yuma," "Walk the Line," "Girl, Interrupted") about a woman who gets mixed up with a secret agent.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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