Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Toy Story 3

I went to see Toy Story 3 last weekend and it was (surprisingly) the most touching theatre experience I've had this year. I didn't think any movie could top the first scenes in Up for sheer devastating poignancy, but damn was I ever wrong. The last ten minutes of Toy Story 3 are an ongoing emotional sucker punch that will make you beg the movie to stop if only to save you the indignity of publicly weeping like an infant. What makes this experience unique and wonderful is that for all the choked-back tears Toy Story 3 just feels... right.

Toy Story 3 is about growing up. That's technically true of both the previous films in the series, but never so much as in this final entry. Andy, the owner of the featured toys, is ready to go off to college and needs to decide which of his possessions to bring, store, or throw away. This puts the toys in obvious jeopardy, especially given that they've been largely abandoned during Andy's adolescence. Some begin to devise means of escape to avoid becoming garbage while others steadfastly maintain that their role is to support Andy, whatever that means. The nostalgic bond between toys and their owners has always figured prominently into the Toy Story movies, and that trend continues here with both parties trying to decide whether to hold on to each other or move on. Of course the toys have an incredible adventure that provides the bulk of the excitement, and it's great, but the transition towards maturity is the real heart of the story. I won't spoil anything here, but trust that Toy Story 3 nails the perfect balance of painful relinquishment and knowing acceptance in a powerful coming-of-age tale.

While glorious overall, the movie is not without its flaws. The pace seems rushed, and at times it feels like the filmmakers tried to fit a bit too much into the story. New characters are underdeveloped and the major talents voicing them are all but wasted (Timothy Dalton and Kristin Schaal have tragically minuscule roles). But all such issues pale in comparison to the overall quality and power of the narrative. Toy Story 3 is a busy, exciting film that will leave you simultaneously fulfilled and wanting more, and its few problems are easily forgivable.

Despite my fears that the movie would prove unnecessary and overly-indulgent, Toy Story 3 is both the perfect close to a fantastic trilogy and also a great film in its own right. You don't have to see the preceding films to enjoy it, though doing so would certainly give some additional context. This movie is about the experience of growing up and letting go of the past, something we all experience in our lives, and should speak to every viewer on at least some level. Pixar has truly outdone themselves (once again) with Toy Story 3, and in my mind it tops all that came before it. Not to be missed at any age.

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