***½/**** Image A+ Sound A Extras A-
screenplay by Michael Arndt
directed by Lee Unkrich
by Walter Chaw Woody (Tom Hanks) refuses to shake Buzz's (Tim Allen) hand in farewell at around the middle point of Pixar's Toy Story 3, marking a dark return of sorts to the petulant Woody of the first film and a harbinger of things to come as the picture closes with sights and sounds that are easily darker than anything dreamed of in its predecessors. Maybe it's the comfort that comes with being part of an established franchise--with the knowledge that the only watermark to exceed is that left by its own thorny, complex second chapter. Whatever the case, Toy Story 3 is more ambitious than Toy Story 2 yet less successful as well, mainly because the first half of it seems uncharacteristically uncertain of itself. It's a feeling of awkwardness that in retrospect coalesces into this idea that maybe it's dread that colours our reintroduction to these characters. Half of their number is gone without explanation, after all, including Woody's love interest, Bo. He grieves for her. We'll come back to this. Their owner, Andy, prepares to go to college, leaving the toys to limbo in his attic until some hoped-for, equivocal day when maybe Andy could have children of his own and thus reconnect in some pat, schmaltzy epilogue, we fear, through a closed circle of eternity via progeny. The picture resorts to nothing so simple as that, thankfully, wrapping up instead with a worthy extended post-script that returns the series to its origins, though not without irreplaceable losses and an absolute clarity of purpose that binds this trilogy into something like a definitive, modern existentialist philosophy. While it's not Dostoevsky, it's not that far off, either.