Monday, June 28, 2010

Toy Story 3

It is so much easier to write about a terrible movie than it is a great one. I can go on and on about bad acting, story, effects or whatever; but – as I’ve said before – there are only so many ways to say “awesome”.

Ever since I first heard the release date for Pixar’s latest offering I had known it would be Lil’ Troublemaker’s first movie. The first two Toy Story movies are some of my favorites of all time. I’ve watched them countless times and – with my toy collecting hobby – have a very significant attachment to them. When Lil’ Troublemaker started to have an attention span that allowed for movie watching last year, I gave him my Toy Story box set on DVD. He has now watched those two movies more times than I have. Granted, they aren’t “Toy Story”, they’re “Buzz and Woody” and “Buzz and Woody with Jessie”. But he is thoroughly obsessed.

I’ve got the original scale toys that were released of Buzz and Woody by Thinkway Toys down in my office. Every time he came downstairs I would let him play with them, but after we lost the carpet in the flood I didn’t want them (or him) playing on the concrete floor. They never went upstairs since it is obviously important to maintain separation between his and Daddy’s toy collections. I ended up having to pack them away so he couldn’t get them, but he would still ask about them. Luckily for Lil’ Troublemaker, he has an awesome Granma and two pretty great parents and between us we got him his own talking Buzz and Woody that are actually much nicer than mine. That’s okay – mine have been with me for years and I wouldn’t dream of trading them for shiny, new models.

So anyway, we’ve been hyping Lil’ Troublemaker up for Toy Story 3 for quite some time now. We knew we wanted to go see it opening day, which I happened to have off.

We woke up Friday morning, all excited and ready to go and asked our son,

“Are you ready to go see Buzz and Woody in the movie theater?”


“That’s right! Today… wait, what?”

He insisted he did not want to go see the new Buzz and Woody movie.

That’s fine, though. We were going out to a mall theater to see it and there would be stuff we could do beforehand to have plenty of time to change his mind.

We went to the mall and hit the Disney Store to get him the big stuffed Bullseye he had been wanting (and the big Wheezy – they were on sale) to sit with him during the movie.

“Are you ready to go see Buzz and Woody?”

“No. I wanna go home.”

I was flabbergasted. This was one of those bewildering parent moments where there is absolutely no logical explanation for what is going on and you just have to deal with it.

So we went to the LEGO store and then let Lil’ Troublemaker jump on the Spider Jump, which he has been wanting to do since he could walk.

“Do you want to go see Buzz and Woody now?”

(Our tickets were for the 6:45 show and that time was drawing nigh.)

“No. Wanna go home.”

So we walked over to the movie theater entrance and oohed and aahed (which does not always work) and asked if he wanted to go in there.

Big smile and nod – “Okay!”

We handed over our tickets and Lil’ Troublemaker immediately ran over to one of those car arcade games and started steering. He loves those things. I asked him if he wanted to play for a little while and then go see Buzz and Woody. No luck.

At this point we could either give up and go home or boldly venture into the theater and see if the magic of Buzz and Woody on the biggest damn TV he’s ever seen would be enough to keep him happy. Naturally we chose to go in.

There were two unfortunate occurrences at this point. The first is that when you go to see a movie on opening day, you generally want to get in the theater more than five minutes before the scheduled start time. We did not heed this rule, so we ended up sitting in the fourth row back from the front.

The second unfortunate occurrence was the trailers. There were about thirty of them. And they were loud. I hadn’t really considered the volume of things in movie theaters when thinking about how great it would be to watch Toy Story 3 with the whole family. Lil’ Troublemaker is just over two and a half years old and isn’t really crazy about big, booming noises (it’s the reason we left pretty much the moment the Stone Mountain Laser Show started last month. Why would you open with fireworks?) – which each trailer preceding Toy Story 3 seemed to be full of. The poor little guy already wasn’t liking the theater experience too much, so he spent the whole time with his head buried in Mrs. Troublemaker’s chest (which undoubtedly muffled the noise very well).

Here’s a brief rundown of the trailers I remember:

Warriors of Ga’Hool (or something)– Owls. Huh. I think this is adapted from novels. The followers had better be numerous and rich because I can’t imagine anybody else going to see it. The visuals are pretty amazing, but its owls. I’d much rather see an Owly movie.

Despicable Me – This I want to see. I’m sure you’ve seen the TV spots by now, so you don’t need to be told.

Tangled – Disney’s newest non-Pixar CGI offering. It looks utterly charmless and terrible.

Smurfs – As much as I’d like to just be a dick and dismiss this, I’m kind of curious. I’m sure it will end up being drivel on the level of Alvin & the Chipmunks; but maybe not. I’m ambivalent about Katy Perry as Smurfette. I don’t get what the deal is with that chick. I think Sean Connery should be Papa Smurf, though. Actually, I’m making a note right now to do a Dream Casting piece for this one.

I know there were at least a couple more, but I can’t remember what they were so they must have been pretty great.

Next up was Day & Night, Pixar’s newest short. I should mention here that we went to the regular old 2-D viewing of Toy Story 3. There are various solid reasons for this that I’ll get into some other time, but the reason I’ll mention it here is that I think Day & Night might not have sucked if it had been in the intended 3-D. Clearly, this short was made to showcase the magic of the new 3-D technology. If I had been distracted by that, I might not have noticed how preachy and lame it was. This is the first thing Pixar has ever made – ever – that I don’t like. And of course at the end they had to throw in fucking fireworks, which sent Lil’ Troublemaker into a renewed bout of “I want to go home!”s.

But finally the movie started. And as soon as Lil’ Troublemaker heard Woody and Mr. Potato Head he had to take a peek. By the time Buzz showed up, he had turned his head all the way around and by the time the opening segment was done he was sitting on my wife’s lap, clutching Wheezy, entranced by the movie.

The opening segment of Toy Story 3 is one of the best things I have ever seen in my life. You get to see what Andy sees when he is playing with his toys and it couldn’t possibly have been realized any better. I honestly could have watched a film made up solely of this kind of thing. It felt like watching what I had been waiting for since seeing the first movie. But then Pixar had to go and make me realize what I had really been waiting for since the first movie.

I had to know what happened to the toys. I had to find out what was going to become of Buzz, Woody, Rex, the Potato Heads, Jesse, Bullseye, Slinky Dog and Hamm once Andy grew up. Pixar had created such warm, loveable characters with their first two movies that pondering their fates was unbearable. In the end, after all, they are simply toys. Andy wouldn’t play with them forever. Unlike most other narratives, you knew that their lives wouldn’t simply carry on. Deep down inside, we all knew the day would come that they would be discarded in some way. I don’t know about you, but the thought has occurred to me every time I’ve watched the second movie and it has always hurt just a little bit.

Apparently Pixar realized this, because once that opening segment is over our main characters embark on a desperate (I just can’t use the word pathetic) scheme just to have a moment’s attention from Andy, who is about to leave for college.

And that’s as far into plot as I’m going to go. Just know that this movie answers all of the questions you might have had about Andy’s toys and their fates, and it does it in a way that creates one of the most emotional and satisfying movies I have ever seen.

I don’t feel the need to break this one down too much. It’s Pixar, so obviously everything is top notch. From the voice acting to the story to the better-than-ever visuals; it is all perfect. The best addition to the cast is Michael Keaton as Ken, though my personal favorite new character is Mr. Pricklepants as voiced by the mighty Rassilon himself – Timothy Dalton. Lil’ Troublemaker loved Telephone Boy (the phone on wheels – that’s just what he calls him, I don’t know his real name), of all people.

Honestly, all of the new toys we meet in this movie are great, fully realized characters. From Telephone Boy to Ned Beatty’s villainous Lotso Hugs Bear to the horrifying Big Baby – each has just as much of a role to play as the original characters we all know.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the third entry in the Toy Story series was that everybody was in on this adventure. It wasn’t just Buzz and Woody – it was the whole gang. Every character played a role and had a stake. It really made for a more fully realized story and forced you to invest in the urgency of the narrative. It was very much all or nothing.

The one problem I had with the movie came towards the very end, shortly after one of the best homages to Star Wars that I have ever witnessed. I felt something got drawn out a little bit more than was necessary and it seemed kind of cheap. I’m not sure why Pixar would think they didn’t have the audience solidly enough at this point, but I really feel they went too long with it. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it – it is easily one of the most brutally emotional things I have seen in a movie in the last decade. Mrs. Troublemaker agreed with me that it lingered a bit too much.

But the end itself was perfect. I had already wiped my eyes once previous to the final scene, but the finale just got me. I’m not saying why, just bring a handkerchief or wear long sleeves. You’ll need ‘em.

I can’t say anything more. We all loved this movie. It did everything it needed to do and, in retrospect, the one scene I complained about may end up not being as long as I thought. It could easily be one of those things that on a second viewing – with a bit more perspective – doesn’t seem so overbearing. I’ll find out soon enough because I’m planning on seeing Toy Story 3 at the IMAX in 3-D as soon as I can.

5 out of 5 Fashions for Ken

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