I’ll tell you what Pixar needs to do. Take the first 30 minutes of Up, put it with the vast majority of Wall-E, and then end on the last leg of Toy Story 3. The folks at Pixar have this amazing knack for including one – just ONE – extraordinary moment in most of their films. When are we going to finally get a movie that maintains that magic for the entire duration? Am I asking for too much?
Maybe so. I don’t really know what to say about most of this final chapter in the, ahem, Toy Story saga. The real plot of the movie is fairly similar to what it has been in the previous installments. The toys get misplaced and a high-spirited adventure takes place wherein the rest of the gang has to journey out into the real world in order to save their pals. In that respect, Toy Story 3 has little useful to offer. It’s cute to see the characters we know return, to see them put into new situations in a new environment. It’s fun to be introduced to new characters. And the obligatory call backs to the previous films are… well, they’re there, let’s put it like that.
But of course, the heart of the film is not in the actions that take place. The movie forgets that and becomes a rescue mission with some nods toward genre conventions, but when it remembers its goal it can reach toward amazing highs. In this third movie, Andy is going off to college and will not need his toys anymore. He decides to place most of them in the attic for safe keeping, but through a mix-up, the toys mistakenly believe that they’ve been thrown out. They are hurt by this perceived betrayal, but Woody (Hanks), who saw the entire thing unfold, encourages them strongly to return to the box they were placed in so that they can be put in the attic. They have an obligation to Andy to always be there for him, so says Woody.
It wasn’t until I read the A.V. Club review that I realized the importance of Woody’s urgings. In their review, the pop culture website claims that “blinkered devotion is more creepy than sweet.” I didn’t think of Woody’s devotion to Andy as ‘blinkered’, as though he were acting on a misplaced faith in the boy. Maybe he is. But labeling that devotion creepy is a terrible misreading of the character’s motivations. Just as Andy’s mother is sad to see his room empty after so many years of living in that house, Woody is unable to cope properly with Andy leaving him. He knows that this is what happens to toys – their owners outgrow them – but he is still determined to stand by his man, even if it means collecting dust in the attic. He doesn’t know how to let go.
Although, yes, there’s a lot of silly stuff where Mr. Potato Head gets his facial features placed on a tortilla (the theater I saw this with was rolling in the aisles during this sequence) or whatever other meaningless events befall the characters, the emotion that propels the film involves the acceptance that things change and all you can do is make the best of a new situation. The final moments of the movie are a pretty perfect close to the series and I will be disappointed if they try to come back with a fourth movie. But then, it’s not unusual to hit a nerve and bring the audience close to tears with nostalgia and sentimental music.
No, those final moments are not what put this on the same level with the other Pixar greats like Monsters, Inc. and Wall-E. The one moment that really makes this movie a winner comes before that, at a time when all hope seems to be lost. The toys reach a point where they all realize that they have to accept what will happen. It’s the most mature moment in the entire film. All of the toys join hands and remain silent together because nothing needs to be said.
Exactly. The best moments are when nothing needs to be said. Maybe I am asking too much from Pixar. After all, at the end of the day, Toy Story 3 is still a children’s movie. Maybe I should just appreciate that these movies have those precious few moments where real honesty takes over. Maybe.. maybe that will stick with these kids later on and they’ll find themselves seeking movies in their adulthood that can recreate those moments of heartbreaking honesty.
Or maybe they’ll look for movies with poop jokes, because Toy Story 3 isn’t above a little bit of low-brow humor either.
This is a good movie. Where Dreamworks films have pop culture references to keep adults entertained during their children’s movies, Pixar has gotten good at offering brief moments of reality. I wish there were more, but I’d still definitely take Pixar every time.