So I like to review things I love, as you may have gathered, God knows why as I’m sure people couldn’t give a hoot but I do. I also tend to perhaps assume too much of a “normal” person who reads this (i.e. Someone who isn’t a nerd). Unfortunately I like to get these things off my chest and it’s MY blog dammit! Anyway, I went to see Toy Story 3 last night and would like to give it a good going over review-wise but that would mean being unbelievably geeky thus destroying the nature of a fun kids film. Therefore I am going to split this review in two; One part fun, everyman review and one part super-geeky, technical, over-analytical review. Pick which one you’d like to read. Neither of them have any spoilers either so if you haven’t seen it, you’re safe….
TYPICAL REVIEW –
Toy Story 3 is set 11 years after the previous installment (as it has been 11 years since the last one was made) which begs the question; What was the bloody point? Pixar who made all 3, the first being their opening gambit, wildly successful and critically acclaimed movie, are well-known for coming up with original stories and characters for their films. So why re-tread a path that is well-worn and hasn’t a single blemish? Because they found a story worth telling, is why.
Most of everyone’s favourite characters from the original are here (not all, but most) and they have been living out their lives quietly as Andy, their owner, is growing up. He is now 17 and about to go off to college where bringing Toys is probably a bad idea. As such the fate of his favourite Toys is in question. To be honest, that is about as much as I am happy to divulge regarding the plot as the less you know the better it is. And more surprising.
We know from the outset this is not going to end well so as the credits roll you should be well braced for the ending which is as unexpected as it is brilliant. Whilst it is sad it will affect adults more than children and it is a wonderful children’s movie. Enough danger and peril to keep them interested and some truly hilarious moments courtesy of some of the new characters as well as some ingenious call backs to the first two, “The Claw” being particularly well written in. The animation is brilliant (I recommend seeing it in 3D but if you can’t you won’t be kept in the dark) and seems to be more focused on the character rather than how ‘real’ it all looks.
This is a truly great film and the best of the 3 undoubtedly, it has universal appeal and will reward repeated watches too. It does pack an emotional wallop for adults and is probably especially harrowing for anyone who was a young child when the first one came out as you will now be Andy’s age. But still see it as it very much wraps things up and delivers in every respect. And it is most certainly worth seeing at the cinema. Enjoy!
NERDS ONLY –
So last night I went to see this utterly fantastic film that was in part a clever analogy for Dante’s Inferno and in some ways a look at loss and Death in general. It was an animation but was as weighty a document about death and the afterlife as The Seventh Seal. A few well-known children’s characters have come to the end of their life at the beginning of the film, passing away on-screen effectively, and what follows is essentially their trip through Purgatory and a descent that takes them (without giving too much away) literally into Hell, until finally they attain a certain Nirvana and are relocated through redemption to Heaven. As much as it is a film about a journey through the afterlife it is a story of how we all die and how we must accept those we love will die one day and how to move on. It is never elegiac, mournful or saccharine in tone and therefore does little to detract from the journey each character takes through their own path to redemption. Is hilariously funny too and is far more weighted toward the joy of life rather than the tragedy of death. The villains are a suitably nasty bunch too, the main bad guy in particular being a real fallen angel without any remorse for his black deeds.
The sheer ingenuity and originality of this film is what hit me most though. In the main it is the use of the Toy’s individual features that is most surprising; Woody’s pull string, Buzz’s electronics, the Alien’s Origins and a fantastic use of Mr. and Mrs. Potatoe Head’s removable features is taken to utterly brilliant and hilarious new levels. Their escape from ‘Purgatory’ is spectacular in its ingenuity and the overall aesthetic of the entire film is beautiful. The music is also utterly perfect too. Randy Newman (who MUST win the Oscar if not for this but certainly for Princess and the Frog) has outdone himself this time. I’ve always been a fan but the tonal shifts in score and that brilliant title song are used to honestly devastating effect throughout.
I wish more films had the balls to take an incredibly important subject that should be inherently inlaid in children (Loss/Acceptance/Forgiveness) and create a suitable allegory for it. Watching films, reading books and listening to music is incredibly cathartic and practically essential to our mental health as our minds use symbolism to work through and understand problems. Films such as this, without being patronising, help us to do this and use deep routed and entrenched beliefs about the subject to create a very resonant narrative.
PIXAR have been something of a mixed bag for me over the years. I jumped ship after Monsters Inc. (didn’t like Bug’s Life either if I’m honest) and have only rejoined the party after the sublime UP. They seemed to lose their way a bit, a lot of their films of late seemed to either be someone losing something and journeying to find it (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) or terribly confused ’emotional-journeys’ (The Incredibles, Ratatouille). Undoubtedly well made films but to me lacked the rough edges and overall charm of classic Disney, especially in their preoccupation with how to render hairs to make them look real and a unnecassary focus on ‘cuteness’. Up and Toy Story 3 have changed my mind on the studio and I think this is largely due to the absence of the overrated and predictable Brad Bird as Producer/Writer/Director.
Yeah, alright, it’s about fucking Toys you heartless bastards, but that’s the POINT! Something we have all used, we all have grown out of and then uses the ultimately obvious metaphor for death regarding a shared experience to point out how wonderful the whole experience of life is and that no one really dies, you just… move on. This is the sort of thing we need to hear and we should sit through on-screen as an enjoyable experience. It is still a brilliant children’s film but that doesn’t mean it has to be vacuous or just running from A to B. In the same way as Four Lions pointed out what should be laughed at and Inception intelligently challenged perception, Toy Story 3 challenges what makes us all human and unites every single one of us. Death. But in as intelligent and FUN a way as possible. I was a little too old for the original Toy Story’s target audience (I was 15) but if you were young enough you will probably be exactly the right age for this and it may scar you for life. You grew up with these toys and this is how it ends. Bring your tissues.
This last year, after a previous year or so of clattering failures and disappointments, I have been more selective about what films I watch and it has rewarded me. Having spent a long time wading through remakes and sequels of dubious quality I had all but given up hope on cinema. Cinema is one of my favourite genres and I truly love films but the last 10 years have given me little hope of any real quality which is so depressing when we live in such an advanced age, there should be far more going on! I dared to hope with Dark Knight but then got kicked in the balls so hard by Indiana Jones 4 they came out of my nose. This year however I have watched Up, Kick Ass, Inception, Four Lions, Toy Story 3 and, yes, even Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man 2 and have been shown there are people who know what they are doing in the mainstream and really are able to push things forward. Originality is still a long way from becoming mainstream (of the above listed two are sequels and three are adaptations) but the intelligent use of our technical advances in film and a certain uniqueness of vision are being rewarded finally. The future of cinema is at last starting to look brighter, more fun and, hopefully, a lot less patronising.
The short before Toy Story 3 is called Day&Night and is so utterly unique and original that alone should inspire more people to come up with their own ideas. Wonderful.