I don’t think I’ve ever put off writing a review like I’ve put off writing my review of Toy Story 3. This movie, quite honestly, messed me up. I don’t mind telling you, though not a crier, I spent the last 15 minutes of this movie reduced to a sobbing, gibbering wreck. There have actually been a number of stories on this happening to men my age, and in manly defensiveness….here’s a link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/7859472/What-is-it-about-Toy-Story-3-that-makes-grown-men-cry.html.
Let’s get the obligatory Pixar praise out of the way. I really don’t know what more you can say about the studio. How’s this: they’re better than Disney has ever been at any point in their history. Boom. Laying that down. I will stack their 15 years against any in Disney’s history and I defy you to come up with a time period that produces 10 pictures of the kind of quality they have. Quite simply, they are the most reliably outstanding movie studio in cinema. Toy Story 3 not only manages to live up to a level of pressure to follow two sequels that no movie since Godfather III has had (and G3 did not do that well), but is a more powerful film than any other in the series. Is it better? Well, no, but none of the movies try to outdo the others. Each feels like time spent with old friends, which is what our toys are/were. Toy Story 3 is our last feature (we’ll see these characters again in short films) outing with the gang and I don’t think I was prepared for the direction the movie took and how sad it is.
Thematically, Toy Story 3 is very similar to Pixar’s last film, Up, in that both are about letting go and moving on after loss. As Carl loses Ellie in Up, the toys lose Andy. We join them a decade after the last movie, unused and largely forgotten in Andy’s room as he prepares to leave for college. For toys that live to be played for, this is a depressing state of affairs, but they hope to be stored in the attic and still be there for their child if he needs them. Instead, they are accidentally donated to a day care center and the film becomes a prison break as they toys try to get back before Andy leaves.
The animation style stays very similar to the first two movies, while showing off how far Pixar has come. Look at the humans in Toy Story 2 vs. 3 and you can see the amazing leaps in technology. The fantastic opening western fantasy scene showed off just what they can do and is a great beginning. Randy Newman turns in his best score of the film series. We get a bunch of great new characters in the daycare center toys (Michael Keaton stands out as a Ken doll). It’s another wonderful classic from Pixar, so why is the last 15 minutes so sad? Because ultimately Andy has to say goodbye to his toys. I think the reason a lot of guys are finding it much more difficult than children (though I’d be interested if anyone has taken their kids what their reaction was) is that we’ve had beloved toys we’ve had to say goodbye to. “Boys and their toys” and all that, but I had toys that I was as attached to as Andy was to Buzz and Woody. Pixar rams that pain back in your face in a very real, very unsettling way. I was completely unprepared for how raw that reminder was, and not since Sam did hoist Frodo and start trudging up Mount Doom in Return of the King, did the Dave movie tears flow. For that reason I probably will revisit this less than the other two movies, but it’s no less of an achievement in storytelling and film making.