Slightly later than advertised, part 2 of the double bill...
3. Toy Story 3
Days behind review schedule: 21
Alternate Title: "It Ain’t Easy Getting Old, Even if You’re Plastic".
Cigarette intake since viewing: Stop judging me!
Currently listening to: "The Musical Box" by Genesis.
The Gist: Having long been outgrown, Woody and Buzz et al must brave the perils of day-care.
The Experience: The original Toy Story holds a warm place in the hearts of many children, and with good reason. I for one remember it as the first film my mother took my sister to see with us, albeit with me being the only one able to properly enjoy it; my sister was a baby back then, and not a quiet one. For years after, however, the VHS copy of it I received for Christmas would be watched and re-watched constantly by both of us. In many ways, Toy Story and its sequel were made for kids like me and my sister: a parable about toys vying for the affection of their unwitting owner, as well as dealing with the topic of sibling rivalry and fear of abandonment in terms that are universal without talking down to children.
Then along comes the long-threatened third instalment to cock the whole thing up. That’s what I and many others thought 5 years ago when Disney announced that it had gone into development. Of course back then we had the hellspawn that was Michael Eisner running the show, and the supposed plot of the film (Buzz malfunctioning and getting recalled to Japan) sounded as idiotic as Pixar doing a movie about talking cars – oh, wait, they did.
Mercifully, Toy Story 3 not only bucks the trend of not being bullshit on chips but also being perhaps the best film of the entire series so far. This, in addition to the fact that both Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone and Predators seem to not be following the law of diminishing returns seems to indicate that we may be witnessing the dawn of the Age of Aquarius. But I digress.
Time has passed since the second film and now the toy occupants of Andy’s room are down to a mere handful stuck in an old chest. With Andy off to college imminently, Buzz and the others decide its time to move on and wind up at a day-care centre (or nursery, for those of us who aren’t septic tanks). Woody, still blithely loyal to his owner, (not surprisingly, as he’s the only one Andy was likely to take with him anyway,) is determined to get back. However, they fail to reckon with the incredibly oddly named Lotso’Huggin’ Bear and the Stalag 17-esque Sunnyside Day-care centre.
Yep, the second half of this is essentially a jailbreak movie (to be fair, both the sequels had elements thereof). The core of the story is not so much the back and forth from place to place, gag to gag, as in previous films; once again, the film stresses the emotional core of the characters.
All of this is well and good, but it’s not what made this film so definitive for me. What did was the ending. For what was essentially a third go-around of a bunch of well-worn characters with lots of nostalgic harking back to the previous films becomes in the final twenty minutes a harrowing climax where, for possibly the first time, Woody and the gang seem to be in genuine mortal peril the likes of which not seen in a kids film. I saw this in a packed house with my girlfriend on her birthday, with a theatre full of screaming kids, and every single one shut the fuck up for the ending. That is the true power of cinema in action. Many of those children will grow up with that, and I think that the world is better for it. Sugar-coating what happens to forgotten and abandoned playthings is a disservice to the audience’s intellect and to do so here would have been criminal.
Luckily, of course, the ending was a happy one, with the toys moving on to newer pastures. Still, this movie felt like it deserved it, and any film that features a cameo by Studio Ghibli’s Totoro in stuffed toy form gets my vote.
I drank the Kool-Aid, and if you haven’t already, you have no soul.
P.S. A note about the 3D. My experience with it is limited to this and Alice in Wonderland, but I felt it important to add a small addendum regarding its use here. Whilst I chose to shill out extra for the 3D presentation as a treat to my girlfriend, I would warn that, unlike the 3D gag-heavy Alice, there was actually very little obvious use of it in the film itself, apart from one or two sequences relatively early on. What was apparent in Toy Story 3, however, was that the 3D greatly enhanced the depth of field and clarity of the images on screen, doing much greater justice to Pixar’s artisans than was previously possible. However, until I can judge from the DVD, I remain unconvinced that 3D will become standard issue until it is made significantly cheaper and studios cease their obsession with post-conversion. You are only killing the medium quicker by trying to squeeze the juice out of it before people get bored of films going “look at me! I’m coming out of the screen!”.