The family undertook an expedition to Lausanne to see Toy Story 3 (version originale – thank gawd) and although it felt sometimes as if we were crossing the Serengeti (there were 11 of us, 5 children under 5) the trip was worth it. The kids loved the train ride and apart from the popcorn costing the same amount as a bag of gold nuggets and the drinks as much as vintage Dom Pérignon, everyone thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the cinema.
We went to see the much trailed, heavily promoted and generally hawked Toy Story 3 from the peerless animation studio Pixar. Pixar – seemingly – can do no wrong and produce hit after hit and it’s easy to see why. My own opinion is that their last few films (Ratatouille, Up and Wall-E) were a little bit…meh. They did not engage my children – or me – very much at all and they seemed to be missing something…some Pixar-ness that is very hard to put one’s finger on. But, they still did great business, so what do I know?
Toy Story 3, however, is Pixar back on tippety tip-top form.
Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the crew are stored in a toy box in Andy’s room, who is now 17 and about to go to college to smoke weed and get laid. His mother wants to know what stuff goes with him to college, what goes in the loft, what goes in the trash and what gets donated to charity. Andy initially wants to put all his favourite toys in the loft but bring Woody to college (more as a keepsake than a toy) – but in a mix up the toys get put out with the trash and after Woody rescues them, they decide to – forlornly – get into the donate-to-kindergarden box to spend the rest of their days being played with.
Sunnyside – the kindergarden – seems to be a toy shangri-la, with a conveyor belt of eager children wanting to play with toys from dawn til dusk. Woody feels duty bound to return to Andy but gets snagged by the sweetest, cutest 3D animated girl you’re ever likely to meet (who is animated so, so well – with every gesture capturing every 4-5 year old you’ve ever met). The head toy, at Sunnyside, is Lots-o’-Hugs; a strawberry smelling, pink bear who seems to be a lovable, old grand-pa bear straight from Walton Mountain. But Lotso (his moniker) is more ‘Here’s Johnny!’ than John Boy and is evil and a bad bear and has a big baby with a gammy eye who is his henchbaby (like Of Mice and Men). The toys are put into the young toddler room where they suffer physical and emotional violence at the hands of American tots fed on a diet of Spongebob and Shrek. Lotso is the stuffed equivilent of Hannibal Lector and performs a succession of evil things: he reprograms Buzz, put his friends into prison with Buzz as their jailor and Mr Potato head into solitary confinement. It’s dark, I’m telling you, and Lotso’s back story is like the Charles Manson story in cute form.
Woody – of course – saves the day and attempts a daring rescue which involves the awesome Ken (from Barbie fame – who is a rich seam of comedy gold deserving of his own movie), a tortilla, Spanish and the creepiest, scariest monkey you’re ever likely to meet (I quite like monkeys but give ’em a pair of cymbals and they freak me out.) They narrowly escape being pulverised and incinerated and then it does end well…well, it ends. In a totally heart rending scene, Andy gives his toys away to the little girl seen earlier. He explains what each toy does and I nearly had an emotional heart attack. Think: It’s a Wonderful Life crossed with Bambi crossed with Ordinary People.
The best scenes and thoughts about this film are:
- Adult Themes There has been a bit of a reviewer sneerfest at the adult themes contained within TS3 (death, growing up, separation, solidarity, friendship) and that they’re not age appropriate. I think that’s crap. My kids loved every minute of it and the only bit that freaked them out was that bloody monkey. He freaked me out and I’m 38. The themes went way over their heads.
- Incinerator Scene There’s a scene when all the toys have survived a pulveriser in a rubbish tip and then are sliding down towards an incinerator. I think it’s Mr Potato Head who decides that it’s futile to try and climb out, stops scrambling, and merely holds Mrs Potato Head’s hand. They all do the same and accept their fate, holding hands, friends together. It was like Schindler’s List – I nearly had an embolism, it was so, so poignant.
- Growing Up Andy is now too old for toys and the decision about what to do with Woody, Buzz et al drives the symbolism of the film. He is saying goodbye to childhood and all of it’s simplicity, imagination and dependability. We all feel nostalgic for our past but that is not what struck me most. The thing that effected me was that my children are getting to the phase of ‘favourite toys’ when they lionise them and defend them and must never, ever lose them. They play with flights of imagination and wild creativity and the film captures how short childhood is and before you know it your kids are in university and you missed it. I wanted to hug my children and stop the clocks after watching TS3. Finally, we – as an audience – are saying goodbye to Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Hamm, Mr Potato Head, Slinky and Bullseye. We grew up with them – to an extent – and this is their last adventure. All of that is rolled up into an emotional grenade that Pixar lob in when Andy gives away his toys at the end. It’s almost too much.
Toy Story 3 is – and I don’t say this lightly – Pixar’s best film to date.