'Toy Story 3'
Directors: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris
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Moviefone Mama Says: This has been a surprisingly good year for family films, but if you only have time to see one of the many entertaining animated movies from 2010, so far you'd have to choose 'Toy Story 3.' Not only is it the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, it's one of the year's best films, period. With 'TS3,' Pixar has created the kind of movie which may cause grown men to cry (even those without children of their own). It's not a tear-jerker trying to manipulate you into bawling; it's just that good. Mothers should just keep an entire box of tissues at the ready for their DVD viewing, because everyone will be weeping one way or the other by the time the credits roll.
Before you see Woody, Buzz and the gang at home with your family, here is a necessary note for parents who may not be ready for their little ones to take the DVD plunge yet.
Parent Concerns: Although Pixar's third installment in the 'Toy Story' franchise is rated G, there is one climactic sequence of our favorite toys in peril that may temporarily scare preschoolers. Even I tensed up, and I knew everything would end well (needless to say, they're rescued from danger). My daughter, who's five-and-a-half, however, gripped my arm, began to whimper, and ended up sitting on my lap. For a few seconds, she really thought Woody, Buzz and the gang were doomed. The scene is made more harrowing by the movie being shown in 3-D. But other than that scene, there's nothing to worry about in the "threequel," and it's a safe pick for all ages.
DVD Extras: Pixar films are always good value when it comes to bonus features, and 'Toy Story 3' does not disappoint. My favorites are the six-minute introductory animated short 'Night and Day,' which preceded the movie in theaters; a four-minute featurette of Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs, shot aboard the Space Station with NASA's assistance; and of course the making-of, behind-the-scenes commentary, which includes a snippet of how 'Dancing with the Stars' pros Cheryl Burke and Tony Dovolani choreographed the wonderful paso doble that "Spanish" Buzz and Jessie do at the end of the film to the Gypsy Kings' flamenco-inspired version of 'You've Got a Friend in Me.' What's great about the extras is that they're sorted by category appeal, like "Family Plan," so you know which ones will most interesting to the kiddos.
'How to Train a Dragon': With built-in appeal for kids who've read the popular book series, this original story about a viking and his pet dragon, Toothless, features dazzling special effects, a sweet story and an encouraging message for kids who don't think they're all that.
'Diary of a Wimpy Kid': Sure, there's potty humor, but elementary-aged kids adore this book franchise about a middle-schooler trying to be "cool," and the film version is just as funny. As a bonus to those raising reluctant readers, this is a great adaptation to watch as way of getting them into the books.
'Alice in Wonderland': Tim Burton's take on Lewis Carroll's classic tale is lush and loopy, and stars the irresistible Mia Wasikowska, whose Alice eventually realizes she's not just an idle visitor to Wonderland but a crusader with the ability to free the land from tyranny.