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.

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July 7, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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