Almost 11 years after the release of Toy Story 2, Pixar Animation Studios is revisiting their biggest franchise with Toy Story 3. The span between the second and third film may have been primarily the fault of the Disney/Pixar ownership negotiations in the mid-2000s, but that time has been an unequivocal boon to the series. Many of the kids who saw the first movie in 1995 have reached the age where their childhood will be tucked away and reserved for rainy days or for time with their own children. What better way to signify that transition than with one more adventure with the toys that simultaneously enraptured the youth of the world while creating the art (or craze, to some) of the computer-animated feature?

The only response I can offer is thanks, for director Lee Unkrich and the rest of the Pixar staff have done the series proud with their profound, unpredictable, hilarious and heartrendingly nostalgic movie.

In the previous film, Woody the cowboy doll decides to continue his mortal existence as young Andy’s beloved plaything rather than to achieve immortality as a museum piece. Even though Toy Story 2 ends happily, there are no delusions that Andy will keep his toys forever. The toys have chosen their lives, consequences and all. How they will face their unknown afterlife becomes the focus of Toy Story 3 as the college-bound Andy must decide whether he will store the toys in the attic, donate them to a daycare center or toss them in the garbage.

It is well-nigh impossible to describe a Pixar movie, let alone this movie, in one word. For now, I will just describe Toy Story 3 as bittersweet. The entire film is about the acceptance of reality over the continuation of fantasy. The plot begins with Andy playing with the toys and then relays the final acts of severance in that relationship. Residence in the daycare appears paradisiacal until a nightmarish hierarchy materializes. Throughout this movie, the toys’ desires are removed or subdued by whatever truth, lie or fate is guiding them. Such is the same condition of the teenaged or young adult viewers, many of whom have foregone their childish dreams and are entering the potentially harsh outside world. We all learn that nothing is as permanent as impermanence, but as the toys see in the film’s poignant finale, accepting change may not be the same as giving up.

Even though this movie is more dramatic than the other two, audiences should know beforehand that they will be subject to explosions of laughter. Toy Story 3 never falters in delivering the cartoonish sight gags, double entendres and pun-laced dialogue typical of this series. These jokes build upon character and style continuity with gasp-inducing results. (The three-eyed alien dolls and the Star Wars references are still priceless.) Do not think that casual viewers of the series will be ignored, for there are also great allusions to prison films and to other animated works (I adored seeing Hayao Miyazaki’s Totoro among the new toys). Every single joke in this movie has an audience in mind and has a purpose within the story.

At the screening I attended, the grown-up audience members applauded many of the running gag payoffs and the close shaves the characters live through. Even though I expect such a reaction whenever I see a new Pixar movie, it was especially moving to witness it for this movie. Toy Story 3 will be a cathartic experience for those who attached themselves to Woody, Buzz and the others as much as, if not more so than, Andy did. This film is not only as funny, thrilling and probing as the first two, but it also serves as a more optimistic conclusion to the story than Toy Story 2 did. It is a satisfying goodbye to what will undoubtedly be considered one of cinema’s greatest trilogies.

First published in The Coastland Times


Mer said...

I guess I'll have to check it out! I LOVE Pixar!!!

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