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Saturday, 27 November 2010

It's a highlight of Toy Story 3 (dir Lee Unkrich, 2010) when Buzz Lightyear has his program reset by Rex - whose tiny hands are small enough to fit into the recess where the reset button is located - and turns into a passionate Latino. It hadn't been their intention to do this to their friend, but the toys unfortunately hold down the button too long (Rex is as dim as always, in this sequel) with the consequence that Buzz starts speaking in Spanish and coming over pretty strong when he sees Jessie the cowgirl. It's a character twist that's sure to appeal to youngsters who watch the movie.

The basic story is simple. Andy is 17 years old now and is about to go away to college when his mother forces him to decide what to do with his toys. Sister Molly is to move into Andy's room and space must be cleared before he leaves home. Most of the toys he shoves into a black garbage bag which he leaves in the upstairs hallway near the entrance to the attic, the place where he intended to store them. But he gets sidetracked before he has time to put them away and his mother sees the black, plastic bag and, thinking that it's rubbish to be thrown out, puts it by the kerb outside. The toys manage to escape from the bag but end up inside a cardboard box of cast-offs destined for a daycare centre.

In the centre, the toys meet a collection of other toys who are used to the routine. Andy's toys are new to the centre so they are relegated to the room where the younger children play. The regimen is severe with these kids, and Andy's toys complain to Lotso, a large, soft, purple bear who is in charge of the toys in the centre. Lotso comes down hard on Andy's toys, and has them confined to cages at night, ordering his henchmen to patrol the building to prevent escapes.

Meanwhile, Woody ends up at the house belonging to Bonnie's parents. Bonnie's mother works at the daycare centre. Bonnie gets a lot of toys from that place, including Chuckles the clown who has a strange story to tell about Lotso. Woody doesn't linger there as he is determined to free his friends at the daycare centre. He is confident in his abilities to do so now that he has additional information about the toys who run the place. Needless to say, Andy's toys eventually overcome the odds and escape from their subjection.

But there's only one way out of the daycare centre: through the rubbish chute. The toys are about to achieve freedom when Lotso, who has been pushed into a dumpster, grabs Woody's foot and they all pile in trying to free him. Now they're on their way to the rubbish tip, a mechanised hell where items of garbage are shredded and burned. It looks as though Lotso might save the day for them all but he reverts to type and abandons Andy's toys to a desperate, fiery fate.

The flamenco shenanigans of Buzz are not the only novelties in the film. Andy's sister Molly's Barbie doll is also involved in a fair bit of action after she is discarded among the toys in the box Andy's mother takes to the daycare centre. Barbie meets with her Ken at the centre and it's love at first sight, initially at least. There's an hilarious scene where Ken, to impress Barbie, dresses up in a range of costumes he owns, and that are stored inside the huge, plastic house he inhabits in one of the daycare centre's rooms.

The unkind regime that Lotso has set up at the daycare centre is the centrepiece of the film. Ken is one of his strongmen at the centre, but there are other ruthless toys there too who willingly do Lotso's bidding. Lotso's at-first kind demeanour hides the ugly truth that he's a tyrant who keeps some toys in subjection in the room for the younger children while a select few live comfortably and in peace where the older kids play. Lotso's character is complex and interesting, and makes a fascinating addition to the original cast. His fate is eventually sealed when he is picked up at the tip by a fanciful worker and strapped to the front bumper bar of a garbage truck. It's poetic justice. Just because he smells like strawberries doesn't mean he'll end up in clover.

As for Andy's toys, including Woody, who had initially been set aside by Andy to take away with him to college, their destiny is far rosier. But the thrill of this well-executed movie is in the journey from danger to a satisfyingly peaceful resolution, and I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it yet.

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