Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review Backlog 3: Toy Story 3

Part of the problem with reviewing this movie is that it is, without shame, a kids movie. This does not mean that it's a bad movie, but it does mean 2 very important things. Part 1 is, simply put, at 20 years old, bitter and cynical, I'm very clearly NOT the audience it's aimed at, which links us nicely to our second point: That aiming a story at a specific group will limit your art. Doesn't mean it's going to be bad, I recognize that there are lots of excellent kids movies and I can think of at least a dozen off the top of my head that I love (a lot of them including the word Muppet in the title). I also recognize, however, that making the conscious decision to aim your story at a specific demographic is going to limit the stories you can tell and how you can tell them, doubly so when that demographic is an age range. Clear? Okay, moving on.

So for those of you who are fans (HA, like I have fans) of my other review series, Second Age Reviews and are wondering why this is going up at more or less the same time as my Escape From New York review, it's because I technically saw this a week ago and have been procrastinating and wondering if I had anything relevant to say on the subject. This movie falls into a very strange place in my mind, where while I know that it's good (oh spoiler, it's good) it's not good enough that I get worked up about, so I'm left stumbling around trying to find something relevant to say.

Well I'm two paragraphs and, woah 284 words, in and I haven't even begun talking about the movie proper, which is good because I haven't got much to say on it. The film begins with a familiar set up, something disrupts the toy's world (in this case, Andy growing up) and through a series of coincidences and accidents, several of the toys end up far away from Andy's house and have to struggle their way back home. Along the way, they'll get into some peril, meet some new friends, make some new enemies, blah, blah, blah, we all know the setup.

To identify what's new, we have to move into plot details and symbolism. This time, the toys are looking at being given away or put in the attic (insert Dollhouse reference here), which to me symbolizes some kind of Toy death. This is interesting, at least for me, because few children's films outside of a couple Miyazaki masterpieces, feel the need to directly address such an adult theme as death. After being given away, various stages of the afterlife are symbolized. The film spends most of it's time milling around purgatory, does a brief stint in heaven, an even briefer stint in hell and then moves right on into rebirth.

The writing is solid, but then even the bad Pixar films have had solid writing. Most of the new characters are interesting (none of which I'm going to discuss, for fear of spoilers), all of the old characters that were great remain great, while all the old characters that were irritating remain irritating (I'm looking at you Rex). Like it's predecessor, the movie pushes Woody directly into the spotlight and leaves the rest to putter around while he's doing his thing. That's a shame, because I've always found Buzz to be a much more interesting character and that's not just because I have a bigger affection for Sci-fi films than Westerns. The only other new character development I'm going to discuss is the fact that after being little more than a plot catalyst in the first 2, this is the first film where Andy finally gets to be an actual character.

The action is a little light compared to most Pixar films, and while the brief vision of Toy Hell is disconcerting, it's nowhere near as creepy as say, the destroyed toys revenge scene from the first film. As usual, parents should go ahead and take their kids, but be aware there will be a lot of jokes that sail right over their heads, like R Lee Ermery playing the leader of the toy soldiers (he'd best be careful or else one of his soldiers might snap and shoot him).

You know, somewhere where they keep such things, there is probably a masssssssive list of all of the places I disagree with the popular opinion on things. Somewhere near the middle of this list, is my opinion of Pixar. It's not that I dislike them, but there are many people (and some critics) who seem to regard them as animated film Jesus, whereas I regard them as any other animated film company, with constant ups and downs. They've certainly never produced anything near as intelligent and moving as Spirited Away or The Muppet Movie, but maybe I'm just a snob about these things.

Sorry, this is getting a bit rambly. All you need to know is, Toy Story 3 is solid. Not as good as the first, better than the second, just...good. Worth seeing, but not amazing. It's not going to traumatize anyone, so just go ahead and drag your kids to it if they want to go. I guarantee it's better than Marmaduke.

Okay, 2 quick end review notes. Bear with me, kay? First off, you might've noticed I didn't mention the 3D aspect. Normally I could chalk this up to the fact that I fucking hate 3D and actively seek out 2D showings whenever possible. This time however, it's because I saw it at a drive-in theater. How I came to see at a drive-in is not a particularly interesting story, but just in case you think it might have affected my judgement, that is how I saw it.

Secondly, I also recently went to see Get Him to the Greek. I was initially planning on reviewing that, but in a style similar to Toy Story 3, I was left with very little that was interesting or relevant to say about it, and it was bad, but not bad enough that I got angry or worked up. So it sucks. Don't see it.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile, and he couldn't stop humming The Great Escape theme during the preschool escape.

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