24 June 2010

Toy Story 3 *

I generally don't like movies trying to encapsulate the "four quadrants" of moviegoers. There's just something about a movie that aims to "have everything" (romance, action, tragedy, comedy, adventure, philosophy) that makes it hard to like -- usually aiming for something so broad leads to an unfocused mess of a story with many shoehorned-in elements just to please different types of viewers -- but the truth is, when a movie actually nails all the things it aims for, even (especially) if/when it aims for a little of everything, it makes for a pretty satisfying film.

Where Toy Story 2 did it right by expanding the characters, the world, and the themes in just the right ways, 3 wraps up a trilogy-arc in a really, really satisfying way, by taking us to the inevitable conclusion: the end of Andy's childhood and the end of his need for such toys. And 3 does something I haven't seen a Pixar movie do yet, which is really go dark and a little nightmarish at parts. Sure, the "cannibals" in Sid's bedroom were a little nightmare-lite, but act two of Toy Story 3 doesn't really pull its punches in terms of pathos and visual terror, and act three ratchets the stakes up as high as they can go and then some. It's a bold move with a safe franchise to explore dark places like this, when it could have easily just spoonfed the audience something easy and unchallenging, rehashing or overcomplicating the themes and conflicts from the previous two films, and still make all the money in the world. Plus, then to acknowledge loss and maturation -- that's actually something cartoons almost never do in this country, and something Disney hasn't broached that I can remember since the glory days. People grow up. Loss happens. Sometimes there is no happy ending to choose. (Of course, the movie cleverly gives us the happy ending we all want, but only after making its characters make difficult and painful choices.)

If I had any complaint (other than fucking Randy Newman and the return of "You've Got a Friend In Me," though I found the Spanish version less painful), it's that the humans don't really make any sense. If you look at it from the toys' perspective, Andy and Mom and Molly and Bonnie all act just as they (the toys) deserve them to, but if you look at it from the humans' perspective, there's something fishy about a boy who's in love with his cowboy doll for so many years and has no human friends of his own. But like I say, the characters we care about are the toys, and how the humans treat them makes a certain kind of emotional sense from their perspective, and they are given what they deserve for their trials and tribulations, and so I can't really fault the movie too much... still, part of me wishes the humans made more human-logic sense as the trilogy unfolded over the years.

I've got to be honest, though: over all, this movie was pretty astounding, and probably the greatest third in a trilogy/series I've seen. Whereas Up and Wall-E were great with fairly major script flaws and seemed indicative of a Pixar willing to delve into broad emotion and good-old-fun at the expense of character and story, Toy Story 3 proves that the studio that made Ratatouille and The Incredibles still has it. I know Up was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won Best Animated Feature last year, but this is the movie I think deserves those accolades. If you were thinking of releasing an animated feature film this year, you might want to wait until 2011, because this is not one you want to have to compete with. It's just that good.

Seen at the Regal Lloyd Cinemas.

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