Fresh from releasing Minions, the #11 grossing movie of all time, and also its predecessor, Despicable Me 2 (#28!), the good people at Illumination Entertainment have decided to see if they can spruce up the less-successful Toy Story franchise, substituting domesticated animals for children’s playthings and imagining what they get up to when their owners aren’t around. The result: great casting, design, and character conception; a plot that makes precious little use of any of that; decent humor; and an overreliance on wacky action at the expense of anything worth caring about. Affable terrier Max (Louis CK) gets the Woody role, convinced of his owner’s undying devotion and therefore mystified when an interloper shows up in the form of a big brown pound pooch named Buzz, er, Duke. Their rivalry gets them lost in New York City, which is a shame, because the pets back home are far more interesting than the angry gang of Flushed Pets our heroes wind up running with (and from). And while a Busby Berkeley number set in a sausage factory is good fun, too much of the film feels like hot dog filler: inoffensive but also insubstantial. Directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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