Monday, June 21, 2010

Love: Toy Story 3

Disney/Pixar made a movie.  Another movie.  Another good movie.  That's really all you need to know.  There's nothing more that needs to be said.  The Toy Story series is now one of the most solid film trilogies of all time.  If you're judging solely in the animated category, it is the most solid film trilogy of all time.  Of course, you're not surprised that Toy Story 3 is good.  It's a Pixar film, after all.  Even when their films aren't great they're still at the top of the cartoon heap.  Yet, maybe you should be a little surprised.  Or, at the very least, a little impressed.  Toy Story is Disney's Star Wars, it generates tie-ins and merchandise in abundance.  Everything is a toy, after all, and is thus born prepared to return to forms of plastic or plush.  The first film installment hit theaters in 1995.  It's now rolling through a decade and a half of child belovedness.  Middle schoolers who saw the flick in its original run may now be dragging their own spawn to the trilogy's 3D conclusion.  With 15 years, a never ending stream of Disney Store products, a permanent place in Disney theme parks, and a quality timelessness to its animation, these characters have transcended every generation gap.  Toy Story doesn't cater to any one audience, it doesn't have to.  Its themes are broad, its characters recognizable.  Every child falls in love with it if only because they already recognize its key players from the floor of their playroom.   Where am I going with this?  Toy Story 3 is good.  Really good.  It's an instant classic perhaps in spite of the fact that with the momentum built up from all that came prior, it didn't have to be.
Most of Hollywood pushes out sequels as income generators.  They're the sure things.  Second and third rounds of high-grossing popcorn flicks will continue to do well even if they films themselves aren't good at all.  Need an example? Look at Shrek.  The Dreamworks ogre lost his way somewhere between the second and third films, but the fourth film is well past the $200 million mark and sitting pretty in the box office top 5.  Disney/Pixar will certainly rake in a disgustingly large sum of cash as a result of Toy Story 3, but there's a distinct difference: nothing in the film feels forced.  Instead, everything has been carefully considered, and the tale it has to tell feels necessary to the completion of the initial narrative.  We've followed Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), and the gang from petty rivalries in their owner Andy's childhood through to Andy's coming-of-age, and the films have matured as well.  Toy Story 3 is as stressful as it is heartfelt.  As Andy prepares to go to college, his mother asks him to clean out his room and separate what can be boxed in the attic, what can be put in the trash, with what he wants to take with him to the dorms.  The remaining toys are anxious.  Those who have been spared yard sales and broken pieces have been left to sit without play for years now, they're prepared for the worst.  Then, of course, a glitch: the toys wind up packed and donated to Sunnyside Day Care.     
The toys, under the guidance of Woody and Mrs. Potato Head's misplaced eye, understand that there has been an error.  As they are subject to the joys and injustices of Sunnyside and its puffed-up plush patriarch Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear, Jessie, Bullseye, Hamm, and the others are left to anguish over their manufactured purpose (to be there for Andy) and their own desire to finally be played with.  It's a harrowing adventure that, as per usual, blends exacting, well-timed humor with a depth of emotion that hits on something profound within the human experience.  Toy Story 3 is a cinematic feat of a sequel.  It takes the successful pieces of its other parts and expands upon them, reaching towards a conclusion that is as satisfying as it is complete.  While the film indulges in its share of goofy humor and referential jokes, it is also a work that takes the melancholy sense of lost built into the series from the get go and brings the series to its universal thesis.  Yes, these are toys.  Yes, they know (as do we) they're designed to be temporary.  It's that inanimate awareness that makes it all the more resonant.  This plastic life is what makes it beautiful, and brilliant.  Every child grants their possessions imaginary life.  That life withers, but the memories of these attachments remain.  Toy Story in completion is a brightly-colored, effervescent epic of love, loss, and the impermanence of objects.  It draws you in with pep and laughs, but the reason you come back?  Well, that's something deeper.

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