A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 494 – Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 – July 7th, 2011

After the drama of last night, plus a long day for me, we decided it would be best to watch something sweet and fun and ultimately tear-jerky. Which really could be any Pixar film. It’s what they specialize in, after all. So Andy gave me two choices: Toy Story 3 or Up. You mean I have to choose? Yes. Because there wasn’t enough time to watch both and we only have one box of tissues in the apartment. So in went the latest (last?) installment of the Toy Story saga to get a theatrical release. And we braced ourselves for the tears that we knew would hit by the end.

By now in the series we’ve met the toys, seen them deal with issues of jealousy and abandonment and learned that most of all they just want to be played with by their child. They want to be loved and treasured and always be there to have fun. Sure, being a collector’s item is okay – better than being tossed aside – but playtime is the best time. Coming into this movie we’re supposed to be familiar not only with the characters of the toys themselves, but with the world they exist in. Because being familiar with the world will make this movie that much more wrenching.

The first movie introduced the characters and pulled them all into a team. The second movie presented them with a sinister threat and an unpleasant reality. The third one? The third one tackles growing up. We zip forward through the opening credit montage, through the childhood of Andy, the owner of Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang. He gleefully plays with his toys over and over and over until the montage and credits end and we find that he’s 17 years old and headed off to college and the toys are patiently (or not so patiently in some cases) waiting for him in their toy box. They try a last-ditch effort to get his attention by stealing his cell phone, but it’s all for naught. As Andy packs for college his mother tells him to toss what he doesn’t want in the trash or box up things he wants to keep either for the attic or for college. And through a series of understandable but unfortunate events, all the toys but Woody end up in a garbage bag on the curb instead of in the attic where Andy meant them to go.

Even without the eventual horrors of daycare, the scenario of the toys being left out for the garbage truck is a horrific one for the world that’s been presented to us. The toys all panic, certain that this is the end for them. Jessie’s already been cast aside by one kid, and now another! They escape in the nick of time, but clearly it’s time for them to go elsewhere. Andy doesn’t need them anymore. So off they go to the magical land of daycare where every day is a day full of playtime and the kids never cast you aside because there are always new kids! Things don’t go as well as they want, however.

Now, this is what I really love about this movie. I love the tearjerker ending too, but what I really love is the horrific world of Sunnyside daycare. The older kids are a dream come true for toys. But as Buzz and the others find out, the toddlers are another story entirely. The scene with the toddlers rampaging through their playroom is at the same time one of the most hilarious and one of the most horrific things I have ever seen committed to film. And the movie does it deliberately. This is supposed to be a terrifying and threatening ordeal for the toys. They’re bent, licked, painted, stomped, thrown, bashed and broken and left reeling after the fact. As the toys themselves say, they are not age-appropriate for these kids. It creates this brightly colored and incredibly cheerful toy dystopia, ruled by the fuzzy fist of Lotso, a sinister fuchsia bear who smells like strawberries. He and his cronies have decreed that only they and their favorites get to live in the “Butterfly Room” with the older children. The new toys? They have to earn their places by spending time in the “Caterpillar Room”. Any toys that protest spend the night in the sandbox.

It’s a fantastically clever way to create peril for the characters of this world. I love how every aspect is playing upon this community of toys, with Lotso riding around in a toy dump truck and the toys playing cards for Monopoly money and AA batteries. The spa at the daycare is a repair spa, where toys can get cleaned and restitched. Ken, who shows up as one of Lotso’s cronies, has “his” Dream House, full of clothes he loves to wear and is just itching to try on, leading to a fashion show for Barbie. It’s all a wonderful and inventive environment for the toys to explore and cope with and it’s handled wonderfully. So too are the new additions to the cast, both good guys and bad. They’ve all got wonderful personalities and exhibit what I’ve always loved about these movies: toy-specific movement. The Army Men skip from side to side instead of walking because their legs are molded to their bases. Woody flails when he runs because he’s a soft-jointed toy. Barbie and Ken’s movements are stiff and posed, which anyone who’s ever owned one or the other or both knows is pretty spot on. It’s a great world and I love that the third movie takes everything to an entirely new location – one that makes perfect sense – and it all fits just right.

Of course, there’s going to be more danger, with he toys ending up at the town dump and almost getting incinerated, but they survive. That’s not the tearjerker moment, though it does have some pretty strong friendship and loyalty vibes going on. But really the whole breakout from Sunnyside that comes before the dump? Is wonderful. The toys all work together to get out, having Potato Head stick all his pieces into a tortilla so he could sneak around, and Barbie taking charge with Ken and forcing him to help them out. By the way? I love Barbie in this. She’s cute and fun and perky and she will kick your butt. There are lots of little nods and winks in this movie, but the whole thing about Ken’s horribly dated clothes just cracks me up and makes me really question the intended audience here.

I know kids like these movies. I know that because I work with kids. Lots of kids. And these movies, the third one included, are very popular. They don’t stay on the shelf for long and it’s usually kids who pick them out. But I honestly think that while kids clearly enjoy them, these movies were made to prod adults right in the cockles of their hearts. I’m sure parents experience a special twinge with this one and its whole theme of growing up and moving on, but it hits me too. The movie ends with such an uncliched poignancy that I don’t think it would do it justice to describe it. So on top of all of the jokes that only adults will truly get, the movie is speaking to us as former kids and in many cases as the caretakers of kids. This isn’t tossed in as a bonus to keep the grownups entertained when taking their kids to the movies. This is meant for us too. And I will freely admit that while watching it both Andy and I pulled over stuffed animals we keep nearby. He had my old teddy bear, Rufus, and I had my stuffed Triceratops and I went and said hi to my stuffed dog, Minna, and Uni the Unicorn (wasn’t I an inventive child?), saved from the donation pile when I moved out of my parents’ house. It’s a kicker of a movie, that’s for sure. In all the best ways.

July 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Toy Story 3

July 7, 2011

Toy Story 3

I know I’m going to cry tonight. I have the tissues out (and, yes, when I went to see this in the theater with Amanda and our friend A we stopped in at CVS on the way to buy tissues then as well, because I know how Pixar movies touch me.) Just remembering the final scene in the movie makes me choke up.

This movie takes the most tear-jerkery moment from the first movie – the bit where Jessie remembers being abandoned by her original owner – and expands it into a full movie. As the movie starts Andy, the owner of all the toys from the movies, is heading off to college. He hasn’t actually played with his toys in a long time and they’re beginning to wonder what is in store for them. Still, through all the years he has held on to a core group of toys he doesn’t want to give up. There’s Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Slinky, Hamm, Rex, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head and their three Pizza Planet children. Before Andy can leave he is tasked by his mother with the chore of choosing what he will keep in the attic, what he will bring to college with him, and what he will throw away.

He decides to bring Woody with him and packs all the other toys up in a garbage bag to go in the attic, but through a disastrous mix-up they end up on the kerb with the rest of the garbage. Woody rushes to rescue them, but the other toys decide after being thrown out (they think) they should just leave Andy, so they all climb into a box being taken to Sunnyside Daycare to be donated.

This movie goes to some dark and disturbing places. Especially for a movie about living toys. Sunnyside is one of the darkest and most disturbing. At first it appears to be an idyllic utopia for toys where they will always be played with for all time, run by a friendly cuddly bear named Lotso. But of course things are not as they seem. Sunnyside is a police state with Lotso and his thugs ruling through fear and intimidation. New toys are relegated to the “catterpillar room” where the youngest children maul, maim and misshandle them. I don’t really expect to see sinister dystopias in my animated childrens’ movies, but that’s the wonder of Pixar, isn’t it?

The brilliance of this movie for me lies in the extremes that it is able to portray. It’s not just the bleak world of Sunnyside with its exploited toys and Lotso’s megalomaniacal rule. It’s nit just when Buzz is co-opted to become a jailer for his friends (Lotso re-sets him to his factory setting so he becomes delusional and thinks he’s a space man again.) It’s that even if the toys escape from Sunnyside they have an uncertain fate. Andy has grown up and what is the purpose of a toy that doesn’t get played with? Things get darker and more bleak, an there’s a climactic scene which is so intense and hopeless that the MPAA have actually declared that they made a mistake giving this a G rating instead of a PG.

Then there’s the perfect, gorgeous, bittersweet ending which brings tears to my eyes just to recall, much less to watch. This movie proves once and for all that the folks at Pixar know better than just about anyone else in the world of cinema how to reach right into your chest and grab you by the heart. They are the masters of eliciting a powerful emotional response. This movie is so wonderful, touching and intense that it transcends its genre and takes its place as one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s too bad that I don’t think I have the constitution to watch it more than a couple times a year though – it’s far too powerful.

July 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment