Friday, July 9, 2010

Day Seven: Toy Story 3

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #6
Year: 2010
Director: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks and Tim Allen

There's probably no more controversial movie on the Top 250 than Toy Story 3. It's not that the most people would argue with its presence in the Top 250. It's simply that it's so high. I'm sure when I go back and re-read this blog in 10 years, this movie will have dropped to somewhere in the 200s and I'll have a good laugh about where the Internet movie community was during the summer of 2010.

Personally, I saw Toy Story 3 at its midnight premiere on June 18th, and I loved it. Its final twenty minutes or so nearly made me cry multiple times. (Incidentally, the last movie to nearly make me cry was Up, Toy Story 3's predecessor in the Pixar canon.) It very well may be the best Pixar movie, and I think it's certainly the best movie in the Toy Story trilogy. In my opinion – and yes, from here on out, I'm kind of going to be playing Devil's advocate – the concerns that so many have voiced with its high placement on the list have nothing to do with its quality as a film. It's because of reasons that the high-and-mighty bashers would never admit: it's an American animated movie, it's wildly popular, and it's from 2010.

Yes, the movie elite would like to have us believe they're unfailingly open-minded, but seeing a movie that doesn't satisfy certain "classic" criteria in the top ten films of all time makes their skin quiver. Never mind that Pixar has completed its fifteen year quest to fuse the fantastical elements inherent in any animated movie with earnest emotion and a universal but never heavy-handed message. It can't be that a movie that shot to #1 at the box office and appeals primarily to the age 0-110 demographic could also be one of the best ever made. Could it?

I may not be the best or most impartial judge – my life's milestones have more or less lined up with those of Andy, the film's only human protagonist – but I say it could. I'm not a sentimental person. I can probably count one hand the number of items I still own that I owned before my teenage years, if I can be bothered to think of any at all. But that doesn't matter. Andy is a sentimentalist, and that's enough. In the film's final scene (SPOILERS, but seriously, has anyone not seen this movie at this point?), Andy is forced to look Sheriff Woody in the smiling, plastic face and give him to a preschool-aged girl who wants to take care of him. In an extremely genuine moment that never descends into melodrama, Andy slowly passes the toy off and says (pardon the long quote) "Now, Woody, he's been my pal for as long as I can remember. He's brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he'll never give up on you...ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what."

My eyes started to sting as tears worked their way into them. It's difficult to imagine a more perfect scene. Not in an animated movie or a movie made in 2010 or in a movie that was tops at the box office in its opening weekend, but in a movie. Any movie. Is #6 a little high on the IMDb Top 250 for this film? Perhaps, but it's merely because there's more than five movies better than it, and not at all because it has any shortcomings of its own. Toy Story 3 exists because there are still people out there who want to make movies that are both entertaining and enlightening, that can satisfy the heart and the mind, the young and old, and because there are still people who want to go to movies like that. It's a slap in the face to Hollywood cynicism, and a great equalizer of a film that aligns the world into two camps: people who loved it, and idiots.

I'm rambling, so I'll leave it at this: Toy Story 3 is damn near perfect, and if you somehow haven't seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. That's all.

The Good: The emotion and the message. Ever since Ratatouille, the balance between family fun and heartstring-tugging has been swaying towards the latter, and this may be the fullest embrace of that yet.

The Bad: The "I don't think those were Lincoln Logs" joke got no laughs in my theater. And rightly so. Leave those jokes for Shrek 5.

The Skinny: Fuck the haters, I can get behind Toy Story 3 at #6 just like I could get behind The Shawshank Redemption at #1. No, it isn't my personal sixth favorite movie ever, but it has everything I look for in a movie and more. If the consensus is that this is the sixth best movie of all time, so be it. The general public could do a lot worse.


  1. This movie will fall as time goes on. The public is wildly crazy about Toy Story 3 right now, so I am not surprised that it placed so highly in the two weeks since its release. I thoroughly enjoyed it in theaters, but you and I both know that hindsight can make you re-think a movie's greatness.

    I expect it to stay in the top 50, maybe top 25...but not in the top 10.

  2. I have a major problem with this film, but I'm not sure how well I can articulate it. I'll try, though. In the final scene of the film, Woody betrays Andy. He basically tricks him into giving him to the other kid, when we know Andy wants to keep him. While the film doesn't dwell on it, and while I get the idea of growing up the film is presenting, the film has presented us the whole time with the idea that Woody and Andy have a bond stronger than any of the other characters have. Woody spends the first half of the film separate from the rest of the group because of how much he values Andy. He's the only one who isn't overly concerned with being "played with." And he just decides at the end to go with the other toys, going against his characterization the entire film. I call bullshit. It's manipulative and a way to keep the team around for another sequel. I think the goodbye between Buzz and Woody would be more emotional anyway, since we know very little about adult Andy. The first 95% of the film is brilliant, if a little too similar to Toy Story 2, but neither hold a candle to the original. Buzz's arc from Toy Story is the finest storytelling Pixar has ever done.

  3. I think that the relationship between Woody and the other toys was supposed to be its own "growing up and moving on" story. All the other toys were being tossed aside, but Woody was the priveledged one. In my opinion, Woody HAD to stay with the other toys because he was on one hand staying with his familiar friends, and on the other finding a new direction in life (leaving Andy for the girl.)

    Andy was grown and going to college, and giving up his toys (his childhood innocence?) was important, but I think him giving up ALL of his toys made more sense than him clinging to Woody. I don't think the moral of the story was "When you get older, you lose all your childhood things except one." If that were the case, then what would Woody represent? Your favorite toy/memory?

    I liked the duality of the story.

  4. Bert, I really don't think Pixar will make a Toy Story 4. This is a logical endpoint. And I think the ending was perfect. Separating Woody and Buzz would have been more emotional (sadder), true, but is that really what Pixar tries to do? Make sad movies? I prefer to think they make ultimately uplifting movies with tragic parts, which Toy Story 3 most certainly is.

    In any case, if a Toy Story 4 gets made, I'll eat my shoe. Erm, I take it back. Their next movie IS Cars 2, a sequel to their worst film. What is happening here?

  5. I have a relative who works at Pixar, and when I asked if this was an endpoint for the whole saga, she responded with a sort of "Oh, I don't think so," in that fairly condescending older relative kind of way.

  6. I actually still haven't seen this. Should probaly get on that....

  7. Man, I'm going to become one (even more) cynical bastard if they make another Toy Story.

    And yes, Chris. See it immediately.

  8. Was quite sad to see only mothers with children in my theater when I went to see it. And I hate people considering that Toy Story is kids movie and not worthy to watch and in the meantime hearing from them that Twilight is the real deal. Its the other way around.

    P.S. Dying to come back from countryside and see the other breakthrough of this summer - Inception.