Sunday, June 27, 2010

Toy Story 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich. Released 2010. Rated G.

How does a movie like this end up being a wonderful children’s movie? How does someone write a children’s movie about death, abandonment, elderly-care, and religious questioning with never actually using the terms associated to them?
Actually, a few people in the after-movie discussion were a little irritated that I would take the movie that far from its target (five-year-old) audience. Let’s see if I can break it down.

Andy is the owner of a small band of desperately loyal toys, all of whom wear his name on their bodies. It would be perfect for these toys, who value nothing more than being played with by their kid, except their kid is not a kid any more. He’s seventeen and pretty much done with toys. The beginning of the movie is a slow paced kick in your mortality. You will get old, people will leave you, and when that time comes it’s either wait to die or take the quick road. In fact, many of the familiar faces from the first two movies have already found their way out of Andy’s life.

(Bo Peep is definitely not in this movie)

At this point, you only have a few thoughts to keep you afloat: an unknown future (which could be bright. Possibly. Maybe.), or the “at least we still have each other” mentality. Neither thought seems very buoyant; after all, Andy didn’t care about tossing their friends, and what’s keeping them together if not faith in Andy?

See how that word faith found its way in here? Keep it in mind.

That’s as far as I’ll take the synopsis. You should already know most of that just from the first trailers. It was hard to watch with those themes in mind, but the movie doesn’t keep you in agony for long. Soon we’re back to enjoying toys in action, with all of their caper-like stylized action. So what’s new? Naturally, a few new characters, a new world to explore, that sort of thing. While the toys have had to deal with misfortune and human wickedness before, this time they have to deal with it from other toys. This new dynamic lets light in on the toy moral ethic and many of the driving forces in their lives. It helps the audience question their own methods. Or not. Sometimes it’s just fun to chuckle at the simple life of a toy.

Can anyone actually tell me if the visuals are actually getting better? I swear, in 1995 the characters looked perfectly in their element. They still do and I can’t tell if they were just perfect the first time or if Pixar just effortlessly keeps up with the pace so easily that they won the gold while jogging.

It’s interesting to relate toys to the abandoned parents of children, but that seems to be how Toy Story has always taken itself. They stay with a child, a child they love more than anything, and they stay until the child is grown up and can make do without them. Then the kid has to do SOMETHING with his poor care givers. Donate, attic, or trash. In this movie you can substitute those words with old folks home, your basement, or...trash. But a kid's gotta do something.

However, Toy Story 3 deepens that relationship into near worship. The dramatic question throughout the movie is “how can we return to Andy,” but just behind that question is the question that was asked before they were separated, “does Andy care?”

While some toys are set on making their own fortune and cutting their losses, others, like Woody, are constantly urging the toys to just stay together and stay as close to Andy as they can; someday he may need them, and, if not Andy, maybe his children. It is the faithful waiting game; there is no guarantee, barely a promise and no future vision. Why bother? Just have faith.

In a climactic moment, disaster seems eminent, one faithless character asks the ironically religious question, “Where’s your boy, now?” Personally, I use the root phrase of that as often as possible.

In conjunction with this movie, it’s impossible to not see its religious connotations. I shouldn’t really go into detail about what happens next, but I think it is a very honest way to look at faith in reality.

When all is said and done, the movie is a blast, even if you don’t care for its theological themes. All of the characters the movie retains are more fleshed out than ever. After the previous films it’s obvious that these toys are old hands at working together and getting out of situations, so their caper-style antics are at their best. The Potato Heads have some of the absolute funniest scenes and gimmicks as it turns out that their mix-and-matchable parts can connect to other things than their bodies.

(This is not one of those moments)

Definitely a high rating. 3-D was good because it wasn’t intrusive, but I’m not sure it was necessary. I’ll tell you what, though. You better watch it 3-D just so no one can see you cry behind the dark shades at all the sad parts.

(You'd never guess he just shot his woman...and then watched Toy Story 3)