LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - After a decade-plus absence, the toys are back in town, and boy are they a sight for sore, 3D-beaten eyes.
"Toy Story 3" might not carry that eye-popping dazzle of 1995's milestone original that put Pixar on the map, but, in the absence of groundbreaking innovation, there's a greater depth that isn't solely attributable to those now-ubiquitous goofy glasses.
Playing with more darkly complex emotions than the previous two installments, incoming director Lee Unkrich (co-director of "Toy Story 2" and "Monsters, Inc.") and screenwriter Michael Arndt ("Little Miss Sunshine") manage to add nice substance without noticeably weighing down the beloved characters.
Speaking of which, in addition to all the familiar faces, there's no shortage of entertaining new arrivals to this particular playdate, most notably the seemingly gregarious Lotso (effectively voiced by Ned Beatty), a jumbo pink plush teddy with something bitter and unpleasant festering beneath his strawberry scent.
In a season filled with underperformers, expect "Toy Story 3" to rise to the occasion upon its June 18 release, handily extending Disney/Pixar's winning streak.
Shamelessly hitting empty-nesters where they live, the new adventure finds an all-grown-up Andy (John Morris) heading out for college and his mom (Laurie Metcalf) forcing him to first sort through his stuff.
After a perilous brush with the garbage truck, Woody, Buzz and company find themselves ensconced at a day-care center where they're at the mercy of terrifying preschoolers.
But there turns out to be an even more sinister force behind all the chaos, as personified by the aforementioned Lotso, a bear bearing a grudge bigger than his belly.
As with last year's "Up," there's nothing cheap or showy about the 3D here, which has been incorporated to heighten and enrich the vibrantly lit animation.
Despite striking trademark emotional chords, "Toy Story 3" takes full advantage of its main attraction -- those larger-than-life toys.
Returning along with Tom Hanks' and Tim Allen's now-iconic Woody and Buzz in the toy box are Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Hamm (John Ratzenberger).
Welcome additions, aside from Lotso (who could have escaped from a Tennessee Williams play), include a preening, short-shorts-wearing Ken (a terrific Michael Keaton), a pompous, theatrical Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton) and the truly disturbing (in a tragic way) Big Baby.
It might no longer be the sparkling new thing on the block, but "Toy Story 3" still has a few fresh tricks up its warm, fuzzy sleeve.