Friday, July 2, 2010

Toy Story 3

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

Director: Lee Unkrich

Reviewed: 29 June 2010

jamesintexas rating: ***1/2

Toy Story was the first completely computer-animated film ever when I saw it in 1995. Now, there are more films out there, and the Pixar Renaissance has hit an amazing peak with Wall*E, Finding Nemo, and Up. Years later, Toy Story 3 picks up with the main character Andy going off to college. Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) rally the familiar cast of toys together as they deal with the emotions of not being played with anymore, not being needed by a boy heading off to a different part of his life. Most of the toys end up in Sunnyside Day Care which on the surface appears to be the solution to their problems. At Sunnyside, they will be constantly played with, constantly loved because the children cycle in and out. However, Lotso, the pink bear who lords over the center, rules with an iron fist. Toys are kept in cages at night, there is no possibility of escape, and the wildest, youngest kids obliterate the newest toys, breaking them and not playing with them in an age-appropriate way. A prison break must occur, and afterwards, the question remains: What will Andy do with his toys as he leaves for college?

This film is endlessly inventive and very funny. A highlight is Ken (Michael Keaton) and Barbie's relationship, with Ken recast as a metrosexual in need of someone to appreciate his love of clothes and his Dream House. The escape sequences from Sunnyside pay off in a major way, with intricate plans and subterfuge, as well as a hilarious/creepy set of minor guard characters who aid Lotso in his plan.

The most poignant, tear-jerking moment occurs at the end when Andy passes the torch of the toys to another child. That's when I lost it. Passing on beloved toys to another kid packed an emotional punch for me. The subtext in the film involves the nature of play. To play with toys is to involve yourself in a world of your own creating.

The thing I have always loved in the Toy Story universe is the collision of the toys--Woody the cowboy with Buzz the spaceman, all friends with Mr. Potatohead. In my basement and backyard, the Star Wars characters conspired with the G.I. Joe characters, forming alliances with He-Man and Go-Bots. The world of that creation is a unique and personal thing, sometimes alone in your own head, or sometimes with a treasured friend of family member.

Andy's sister seems to be the quiet symbol of the future in this movie. Her toys and Barbies are thrown out without reflection, and she worships the implied iPod with her earbuds on all the time, even in conversation. The directors draw the contrast but don't underline it. What are kids losing through those devices? Do kids lose the desire and opportunities to play at a much younger age now with the rise of the omnipresent media and technology. Would I have played as much as a kid if I had had the internet, Playstation, cable TV, and access to every movie or TV show? The answer has to be no.

And, as wonderful as an iPod is, will it ever symbolize or mean as much as a piece of plastic, worn-down Boba Fett or Skeletor or Destro? There's something about playing with (loving?) a toy that makes these films so fantastic. The filmmakers get it, and this is entertainment of the highest order.

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