Thursday, June 24, 2010

Movies that Make Me Cry

This Week: Toy Story 3

Grade: A


::Spoiler-filled review::

Holy Cow did I bawl my eyes out at the end of this movie! My husband was seriously laughing at me as I wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my sweatshirt and cleaned my glasses like 4 times, but my god how could you NOT cry! I think my husband didn't have the same reaction because he has only seen the Toy Story movies very recently. Recently as in I only showed him Toy Story 2 like last week, and he only saw Toy Story 1 maybe 2 years ago. There is always something tricky about introducing somebody to a beloved childhood movie later in life (not that I was exactly a child when the first Toy Story came out, I was already 13-14 at the time). Anyway, I wouldn't let my husband's mocking dissuade me from weeping like a little girl when we finally said our goodbyes to Woody and the gang. The closest thing that I can compare it to is that episode of Futurama where the dog waits outside the pizza parlor for Fry for like 10 years until he dies. Ack my heart hurts.

Pixar has a very interesting business model. They have made this executive decision to make very adult and complex stories through an animated medium without sacrificing the silliness that kids enjoy. How any movie can combine the tragedy of death and infertility with the nonsense of dogs in biplanes ("Up") or the destruction of the Earth with whimsical dancing robots (Wall-E) or the painful feelings of abandonment with a Mr. tortilla head (Toy Story 3) just boggles the mind. So often movies for children go for base humor, talking animals, and pop culture references, or they try so hard to please adults that they end up pleasing nobody (see: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Where the Wild Things Are). Pixar on the other hand, makes movies that are both marketable (they just slap Toy Story characters on just about anything these days) but not soulless. This is the real key to their success I think. My only complaint with this film, and it is really minor, is that I think in trying to raise the stakes they might have gone a little too far with the action. I mean, in the first story, we were afraid that Buzz would be blown up by Sid, but the menace was never really that scary I don't think, even for small children. In Toy Story 2 the worst thing that could happen would be that Woody ends up behind glass in some Japanese museum. The "dramatic" fight scene with Zurg was just ridiculous not truly frightening. Contrast this with toys being forcibly cruel to other toys and the terrifying scene in the garbage dump where our heroes were being pulled into a fiery inferno and I think I can safely say that while the first two movies were appropriate for younger children, I think this movie is definitely more in Incredibles territory than, say, A Bugs Life. I mean don't get me wrong, the first movies had their share of complexity, but this movie was definitely written for the younger children who have grown up, or for slightly older children who can appreciate the plight of the toys a bit more. That being said it is a truly terrific movie, and well deserving of my "A" grade.

While I was sad that the movie sort of dispensed with all the other toys in Andy's room offhandedly, I wasn't actually sorry to see that they were simply reduced to the core group. I was also very pleased that with the addition of Barbie and the increased roles of Mrs. Potato Head and Jessie (not to mention the lady triceratops) that there were actually some females in the group who did things. I had always been somewhat bothered by the lack of female toys in the first movie (except for Bo Peep who... did what exactly) and this increased female presence was definitely welcomed. They even gave Mrs. Potato Head a pretty crucial role by having her eye back at Andy's so her presence wasn't just superficial. I also liked that it was a little girl who ended up with the toys and that she was able to play and appreciate all of them, even those which were not gender specific. They totally could have gone the easy route and had Andy find another little boy to give his toys to (one that even looked like him or something), but little girls can have space ships and battles and things too. Pixar, much as I love them, still does struggle with creating meaningful female roles and characters. I do think that this film is a step in the right direction, but I still would like to see a Pixar movie where the primary hero is a girl who knows how to save herself.

The scene that made me cry was obviously the final scene with Andy and the little girl (whose name escapes me) playing with all the toys in the yard. You really appreciate how special the toys are, how much meaning they have for Andy as he describes each one and hands them over. The tears came not from sadness, but more from nostalgia. It's like crying when looking at old photographs of dead relatives or laughing at yearbook messages. It comes from this warm, deep place inside you that sort of forgets things until you see them again and hold them in your hands. Now, that being said, I still think the film could have ended with Andy a hipster with a bunch of toys on his bookshelves (um.. yeah I so have a Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Etch a Sketch, My Little Pony, Care Bear, and Slinky sitting on my shelf). He totally wouldn't be out of place with a Buzz Lightyear on his desk in college; I imagine it is like the equivalent of 20-somethings running around wearing Power Rangers T-shirts. I'm sure a bunch of his buddies would be like "Oh dude, that's a Buzz Lightyear! I totally remember playing with mine while eating Fun-Dips and playing Super Mario 64 at my cousin's house. That's so cool you still have yours." Why the film has to reinforce this notion that grown ups can't have toys is sort of unfortunate. Still, we knew all along that the film was about saying goodbye, and it did so expertly. I really like the touch of Andy wanting to take Woody alone with him to college (he was his number 1 toy after all) and Woody's decision to stay with the group rather than be parted from them. Brilliant stuff.

Of course I can't ignore the humor of the movie, and there was plenty of it. The aforementioned Tortilla Head was the funniest thing I've seen in a movie all year. The cucumber was kind of spoiled in the trailers, but the tortilla came as a delightful surprise. There were a lot of new toys in the movie, but I don't think that there were TOO many or took away from the essential plot. I was actually surprised that the Pricklepants guy played by Timothy Dalton didn't have a bigger role, since they were sort of plugging him with the marketing. The whole Ken thing was a bit much, but he didn't detract from the film at all, and did get in a few cute sight gags. I did like the scene when Barbie is walking in Ken's space suit and the book worm notices the high heels and just does a little shrug. Cute stuff. The whole Spanish Buzz was also funny, as well as Jessie's reaction to his advances, though one would think that, given their bit of flirting at the end of the second movie that they'd have thought to become an actual item in the intervening 10 years.

Bottom line: I'll definitely buy it when it comes on DVD. It is one of those movies, one of those essential memorable films, that can be enjoyed in multiple viewings. I also think, frankly, that its the best movie I've seen all year. That isn't really saying too much, because this year has been, thus far, fairly disappointing in the movie front with the exception of How to Train Your Dragon, which I think will be Toy Story 3's biggest competition come Oscar time.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Love your analysis and agree with your opinions. The Spanish Buzz was the comical highlight of the film for me. I will remember that for a long time. We will get the Blue Ray when it comes out. I look forward to the extra features--I'm sure they will come up with some creative additions. And you did not comment on the closing credits. How often are there funny bits in the closing credits? The last time I remember laughing so much after the movie was over was the credits for one of Jackie Chan's movies--I think it was the outtakes of Rush Hour showing his botched stunts.