Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Toy Story 3


And so we come to what I thought would be the end of the saga of Woody, Buzz, and all their fiber and plastic friends, who endure the oddness of collapsing lifelessly whenever a human being is observing them—you think it’s a quantum mechanical phenomenon, like Schrödinger’s cat?—so they can enjoy being loved and played with, sometimes pretty roughly, by the children they love. In 1 and 2 this was Andy, but he’s almost grown up now, heading off for college. What to do with all these toys? Attic, daycare center, yard sale, or (gasp!) the dreaded City Dump. Andy’s going to take Woody, but mix-ups ensue, and they all end up at the daycare center. At first it’s Sunnybrook Farm, but when the lights go out … it’s more like Stalag 13, complete with fuzzy, strawberry-smelling, not at all comical Colonel Klink in the form of Lots-O’-Huggin’ (“Call me Lotsa”), a big pink stuffed bear. So we get a prison break movie, and the break is ingenious.

All through this movie, as in the others, there is wit and zany ideas. Mr. Potato Head always seems to have the worst of it. He has been robbed of his body, but he manages to attach all his parts to a tortilla. Now he’s Mr. Taco Head, and it’s a soft taco. Just try walking as a limp tortilla while a pigeon looks you over. He is banished to “the box” in a scene taken right out of Cool Hand Luke. He returns and reports it was full of sand, nothing else in there but a couple of Lincoln Logs. He is told “I don’t think those were Lincoln Logs …”

But Buzz has his share of troubles, too. The problem when you’re an electronic toy is that you can be reprogrammed. They accidentally activate the Spanish-language option, and he becomes the Latin lover who dances the flamenco and seduces Jessie the Cowgirl.

There is boisterous action, but never so frantic you don’t know exactly what’s happening. On a technical level it is as good as or better than anything I’ve seen lately, particularly in the climactic scenes when everybody is trapped in a monstrous garbage dump. Toy Story, while still wonderful to look at, was CGI 101. We’re now in post-doctoral studies when it comes to what they can show, which is, bottom line, anything at all.

But any of the above could describe just about any CGI cartoon these days. This is a Pixar film, which means they aren’t afraid to show situations that are genuinely emotional, not just trumped up adventures by standard plug-in adventure story characters. There are themes here that will resonate with children and adults alike. The last thing I expect in an animated movie is to be all teary-eyed at the end … but I was.

As always, the feature is paired up with a short cartoon. This is a really ingenious one called “Day and Night.” Why is it that it takes an animation company to bring back the tradition of having a cartoon with the feature movie? … I guess I’ve answered my own question. It’s because only animators respect the medium that much. But would it be so damn hard to pair an animated short with a live-action comedy? There are literally thousands of good shorts out there, and they get almost no distribution at all. Would you have minded if, say, The Hangover had started out with a Mickey Mouse, or a Bugs Bunny, or a Roger Rabbit cartoon? Except, of course, these days the short might be a lot funnier than the movie …