Bockelman: ‘Toy Story 3’ is multi-generational heart-warmer with plastic coating

Movie at a glance

“Toy Story 3”

Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

Time: 103 minutes

Starring: The voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack and Ned Beatty. Now playing at the West Theatre.

A good family film can bring together kids and adults through common ground. With a little help from Hasbro, Mattel, Fisher-Price and the like, Pixar Animation achieves such a goal once again with “Toy Story 3.”

At 17, Andy Davis (voice of John Morris) is a little old for playtime, a fact that has hit hard on his once cherished toys. Though they’ve been dreading it for years, cowboy doll Woody (Tom Hanks), action figure Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the inhabitants of Andy’s toy box are unable to accept that their owner no longer needs them.

Expecting a dignified move to attic storage once Andy leaves home for college, the group of playthings instead winds up in a cardboard box along with Andy’s sister’s (Beatrice Miller) long-ignored Barbie doll (Jodi Benson) destined for Sunnyside Daycare. Overseen by the kindly Lotso, the Lots O’ Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty), Sunnyside is a haven for old toys whose owners have since outgrown them. Woody is intent on returning to Andy, though his friends are ready to start anew and ecstatic at the prospect of being played with after years of neglect. But they’re unprepared for the horrors of the Caterpillar Room, a toddlers-only wing where they’re dunked in finger paint, shoved up nostrils and almost destroyed over and over again by the rugrat clientele.

It’s up to Woody to save his pals, but will they still have a home to return to?

Hanks is lovable as ever as the determined and fiercely loyal Woody, who is forced to choose between his status as Andy’s all-time favorite toy — which means hopefully venturing to college with his teenaged owner — and making sure the rest of his friends are taken care of for the rest of their days.

Allen returns to his inspired lunacy from the first “Toy Story,” as Buzz Lightyear becomes a space case once again thanks to some tampering with his factory setting that eventually leads to his reprogramming into a Spanish-speaking flamenco dancer. Somehow, “To infinity… and beyond!” just doesn’t sound the same coming out of his voice box en Español.

Joan Cusack is equally fantastic as Woody’s cowgirl counterpart, Jessie, though the rest of the recurring voice artists do just as well, with Wallace Shawn as neurotic dinosaur Rex; John Ratzenberger as wise-cracking piggy bank Hamm; Blake Clark replacing the late Jim Varney as the versatile Slinky Dog; and Don Rickles and Estelle Harris as spud couple, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, with Rickles in particular taking the cake.

Or should I say tortilla? Or cucumber?

Beatty is a welcome addition as Lotso, whose strawberry-scented fur hides a dark secret, though he’s in good company with other new characters like leiderhosen-wearing plush hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton) and Trixie the Triceratops (Kristen Schaal). And need we mention Michael Keaton as a lonely Ken doll who finally has someone to share his Dream House with upon the arrival of Barbie, well-voiced by Disney go-to girl Benson?

Cue Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver.”

To say “third time’s the charm” would imply that the first two attempts were failures, and since that’s certainly not true of the “Toy Story” trilogy, a more accurate phrase would be “third time’s just as good, if not better.”

Considering the first installment broke ground in the computer animation medium and the second set the bar even higher, coming up with another chapter in this story after an 11-year hiatus seems almost unfeasible. Yet, Pixar couldn’t have picked a better time to release their newest adventures of Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang, and the reason is that this is a cartoon more for the big kids than the little ones.

The younger crowd will have no complaints by any means, but here we have a cartoon specifically tailored for audience members who had their early days brightened by the first “Toy Story,” had their adolescent cynicism curbed by its sequel and are now ready for the inevitable task of saying goodbye to longtime friends. Bearing more than a few similarities to the woefully underappreciated “The Brave Little Toaster,” which numerous Pixar contributors worked on, this is a tale of embracing adulthood while keeping the spirit of childhood in your heart.

As if there were any doubt, “Toy Story 3” stacks up well to the rest of the Pixar features, but the studio’s now-customary opening short film, “Day & Night,” also takes a welcome turn, blending 2-D and 3-D animation in a style that hints toward even more leaps and bounds in the future. This only further strengthens the ever-present subject of sharing between parents and their kids, be it in hand-me-down toys, life experiences or knowledge.

Regarding all three of these, you might want to advise your children that monkeys cannot be trusted whether they’re clanging cymbals or swarming out of plastic barrels. But that’s another story for another time…

Now playing at the West Theatre.

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