Playtime's Over

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2010

"Somewhere in that pad of stuffing is a toy who taught me that life's only worth living if you're being loved by a kid." - Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story 2

I was six years old. "Boys! Dinner's ready!" yelled my mother. I hurriedly tossed my Thomas the Tank Engine toys to the floor and bolted out of my bedroom. But before I left for the kitchen, there was one more thing I had to do. Quietly, I crept back down the hallway toward my bedroom door. Ever so carefully, I cracked the door open and peered inside.

Could it be? Were my toys really alive?

Seeing no movement, I resigned with a sigh, closing the door and scampering back toward the kitchen.

This is the impact that Toy Story had on me as a child. I distinctly remember sitting in the movie theater as the film unfolded, enthralled with the story of these fiercely loyal toys. Something about them resonated with me. Maybe it was their tenacity. Maybe it was their humor. Or maybe, just maybe, it was their unwavering devotion to one another and to their owner, Andy.

Four years later, Toy Story 2 was released, and you cannot imagine my numerous concerns prior to viewing the film. As a ten year-old, I was still very attached to Woody, Buzz, and the gang. 'What if this new movie ruins these characters forever?' I worried. To my relief, Toy Story 2 did just the opposite. It expanded the characters—gave them depth. The film took our playtime heroes on new and exciting adventures while still remaining faithful to the original film. That's a tall order these days, but the folks at Pixar seem to accomplish this task with ease.

Can Pixar make a bad movie?

'Time will tell,' I thought as news of a second sequel hit the Internet in late 2008. Once again, my nervous pessimism kicked in, and as the release date for Toy Story 3 drew near, my inhibitions about the film increased exponentially. Finally, I bit the bullet, bought a ticket, donned my 3-D glasses, and settled into my seat, fully prepared for the disappointment to come. But then, something amazing happened.

The movie started.

And two hours later, I was wiping the tears off my 3-D glasses. Pixar did it again. With skill and ease, they crafted a fitting end to the Toy Story saga—one that they can be proud of.

In Toy Story 3, our playtime heroes face some of their biggest obstacles yet. This is not merely a happy-go-lucky tale; rather it is a tale filled with angst and uncertainty. As Andy leaves for college, the toys have to make some tough decisions that will affect their future. Disagreement and bickering ensue, and relationships are strained. Woody and Buzz's friendship is pushed to the brink, more so than any other Toy Story film. Their journey is a hard one, fraught with danger and disappointment. And on this journey, the toys look hell in the face and prepare themselves for the worst. This movie is not for the faint of heart or the young of age.

But let me be clear. There are moments of humor and fun in Toy Story 3. The film is not overly morose. However, I would venture to say that this film is the most dramatic of the Toy Story films, and with good reason. As life with Andy fades into oblivion, the toys' decisions become all the more crucial to their survival. These are life and death decisions being made, and to put it frankly, none of the characters are 100% sure what to do. That is what makes this film compelling to watch. These computer-animated hunks of plastic are dealing with real-life issues that we deal with every day. And, like us, they argue about what to do next in the face of uncertainty. Pixar has fashioned these fictional characters to be mirrors of ourselves, and that is why this film is truly remarkable.

I won't spoil the ending of the movie for you, but I will say this: Pixar closes the curtain on the Toy Story saga with class. Honestly, if you had asked me before viewing the film what the perfect ending for Toy Story 3 would be, I wouldn't have been able to give you an answer. But the folks as Pixar hit the nail on the head. They continue to confound my expectations and churn out good, solid, compelling stories.

Can Pixar make a bad movie? Well, they haven't yet.

RATING: 5 (out of 5)