Pixar, the animation studio responsible for the Toy Story series, has been riding high on their success. Their last two films, Wall-E and Up were lauded by audiences and critics alike (how often does that happen, eh?). It seemed like they were getting better every time, which is why I thought it was pretty lazy that they followed these two successes with a sequel: Toy Story 3.
Here’s what it’s about:
Woody must spring into action to rescue his fellow toys, who have been donated to a daycare, and get them home before their owner, Andy, leaves for college.
I was a little disappointed that they’d gone with a sequel, but I saw the film anyway, of course. I love kids’ movies, and I love 3D and I really love Pixar. So I caught a matinee with a bunch of five year olds having a birthday party.
Here’s what I thought:
The thing I love about Pixar is that they’re a throwback to the old days when there were a collection of shorts before the feature film instead of the barrage of ads we get now. They always produce a new animated short to play before their features. Toy Story 3’s was called Day and Night, which is about two see-through figures, one dark and one light.
not to be confused with Knight and Day which is a movie about crazy spies shooting each other
It was okay, but they beat you over the head with the message: “don’t be afraid of people who are different, because we’re all the same inside anyway.” They actually play a radio speech in it that spells the whole message out when any idiot could have guessed it without being told. An effort far, far, inferior to Wall-E’s Presto and Partly Cloudy, which played before Up.
Presto remains one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life
Anyway, on to the actual feature. I enjoyed Toy Story 3. I thought the plot was a bit similar to the other films (it’s ALWAYS “oh, someone got taken away from Andy’s, and we have to rescue them before Andy comes home or goes away or something). But they executed it well and it was pretty funny, especially to adults. Me and the parents shepherding the birthday party kids in front of me were laughing way more than the kids were.
Ken’s “girly” obsession with his wardrobe = hilarious
Buzz Lightyear in Spanish mode = hysterical
They also deal with some tough stuff in Toy Story 3. Andy, the boy the toys belong to, is all grown up now and the toys, who haven’t been played with in a long time, are preparing to be moved to the attic. Compared to Up, though, which dealt with infertility, broken homes, and The Big D (death), Toy Story 3 is a cream puff.
Ooh, what to do with my old toys? How sad.
The story taps into themes like moving on and leaving friends behind, abandonment, and adjusting to change. Some of it affected the kids, but again, most of the emotional impact was for adults. (I saw more than one parent surreptitiously wipe away a tear) There are some kids out there who have been rejected, abandoned, or had a friend move away who could relate, but most are too young for this kind of thing to really hit them. During this part the kids were mostly focused on scarfing their popcorn and talking to each other.
Yeah, yeah, Andy’s big. Who cares? Get to the fun stuff!
Part of it was probably that some of the initial sad moments rely on the audience having seen the past two Toy Story films to even get what the characters were talking about. The toys lament the loss of their old friends through yard sales and such. Woody seems especially sad at the loss of Bo Peep, but if you hadn’t seen the other movies you’d never know why. (FYI -Bo Peep was his girlfriend). They kept all the important toys though, only getting rid of secondary characters who were either one dimensional or never talked.
On the outs: Lenny, Etch, RC, Sarge and the soldiers, and Bo Peep
In: Lotso Hugs, Ken, Trixie, Buttercup, and Dolly
Plus a lot more: an octopus, some robots, a deep-throat-like telephone. As you can see, some of the new characters are SOOOO CUTE! (I love the unicorn). And thankfully, they kept Bullseye the horse. He looks like Pokey from Gumby but provides simple, wordless emotions, like a dog, so the little kids who don’t understand the big words get what’s happening.
Look at his adorable horsey face! I just love him!
But again, comparatively, Toy Story 3 isn’t top dog. Wall-E was maximum cuteness. Of course, some of the characters are scary rather than cute. There’s the giant baby doll, the screaming monkey with the symbols… I was kind of creeped out by them, and I’m 26! If you have a littler kid, you might want to be careful about this movie. I could see my young self having nightmares over some of the scenes in Toy Story 3, especially the sequence involving the fire. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say even I was like: “woah.”
You think his face is bad, wait till he screams
I didn’t come out of the theater re-astounded by Pixar’s genius and sorry that I ever doubted them (like I was after the last two films), but I will say this: I quite liked the ending. Again, I don’t want to give anything away, but it puts an end to the Toy Saga. Pixar has officially covered the entire life cycle of a toy. Any further films after Toy Story 3 would just be re-covering old ground, so I expect to see the end of the sequels and a return to new ideas (are you listening, Pixar?).
The Toy Saga needed an ending, so I can see why they wanted to make this movie. The unfortunate thing for Pixar is that though Toy Story 3 is/will do well at the box office, they’re probably going to lose the “Best Animated Feature” Academy Award to Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon.
So, the bottom line: should you bring your kid to see Toy Story 3 (or just go by yourself?) Yes. Even though Toy Story 3 is mediocre by Pixar standards, just by being a Pixar film it’s better than 99.9% of all other movies being made by other studios. It kept the birthday party kids (mostly) quiet for two hours, so it’ll probably do the same for yours.