Monday, July 5, 2010

Toy Story 3

It's unfair to say that "Toy Story 3" is the best of all the Pixar movies since it actually took three full films to build to this peak. But regardless, the view is beautiful. The opening train robbery / alien invasion / daring chase is a blitz of a reintroduction to the characters that have travelled with countless children grown now to adults, and quite the set-piece for a studio that, in my opinion, is setting the standard for high quality, high budget filmmaking, animated or otherwise. Pixar, as usual, whittle moment after moment of craft out of their simple story and start things off with a fantasy-within-a-film-within-a-film: inside Andy's childhood brain playing with his toys as his mother videotapes him until we telescope back out to the present, with Andy off to college and the toys stuffed in an old chest. What follows is a film more consistent than "Wall-E" or "Up," and more emotionally engaging than "Ratatouille," and a story that gets rolling and maintains a kind of perfection that I hope will continue in Pixar's work now that they are done (I think, I hope) with the era of Toy Story.

Maybe "perfection" is too much praise. There are a few flaws: Lotso Bear's good guy / bad guy duality and secret past come off a little blandly considering the growing depth of the other characters. CGI in all computer-animated cartoons, not just Pixar's, can't quite seem to get a decent looking human being on screen yet. Of course, Pixar has always turned this lack into a strength -- what better way to identify with a bunch of toys than make them the most expressive characters in the movie? And, as I said at the beginning, it leans heavily on the character-building work done in the previous two movies. But that's okay, too. No one's going to start with this one, anyways. 

Maybe I'm just tempering my own love of the movie by wracking my brain for flaws to pick at. Honestly, I'm surprised by how much it effected me. It's been, what, over a week since I've seen the film and still, by total surprise, the fear and love and hopelessness and whatever other emotions that rushed over me in the final ten or so minutes of the film, all of these things still just pop up every once in a while in the middle of my day. And I think that's the mark of a really impressive movie. A great movie, in fact. 

Pixar is in a unique position. They are, as near as I can tell, an almost independent studio backed by Disney-sized stacks of money. It is a very rare arrangement, and one that I am unsure will ever happen again. My suggestion to everyone watching is to enjoy the ride while it lasts. It won't be here forever, but you can still love it for the rest of your life.

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