I was once tossed into a garbage dump, it wasn’t as scary as this film makes it out to be!
Screenplay By: Michael Arndt
Directed By: Lee Unkrich
There’s a fine line between a movie driven by nostalgia and a movie that is using nostalgia to paint a bigger picture. Toy Story 3 walks the nostalgia line and in the end it uses nostalgia to say some profound thing about growth, humanity, family, letting go, and moving on. The best aspect of Toy Story 3 isn’t that it uses nostalgia in such a way, rather it is that it doesn’t forget that it can be a fun movie while providing such heavy commentary. The movie ends on a note of sadness and hope, and the journey to get there is full of peril, excitement, and humor. Lee Unkrich has taken the Toy Story franchise and done right by it, but more than that he has taken a collection of ideas and morphed them into a whole movie that is compelling in every way a movie should be compelling.
The facts are that if you are my age, thirty one, chances are you grew up with Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Rex, Mr. Potato Head and all the others aren’t just characters in a movie, they are an indelible part of your own growth process. I didn’t just learn quaint lessons from the Toy Story world, I fell in love with the world that the Toy Story characters inhabited. This gets back to the idea of nostalgia. It would have been very easy for Pixar and Mr. Unkrich to produce a film that was layered with nostalgia. Simply seeing Buzz and Woody again would have made me a happy camper. But, the creative forces at Pixar knew that wouldn’t be good enough. To be a proper end to the Toy Story trilogy of feature films Toy Story 3 needed to touch on why such nostalgia exists inside of us. Mr. Unkrich’s film did that, it used nostalgia to say some important things and to provide the closure that those of us who were afraid of Toy Story 3 being just a nostalgia piece needed. In the end of the day that’s the difference between a Toy Story 3 and a Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. One is a film interested in using the world it has created to comment and provide entertainment at the same time. The other thinks the solution is to simply take the characters we know and place them in stock situations because all we need are recognizable characters to be happy. That’s the reason why years from now people will still be fawning over the Toy Story franchise and the Madagascar franchise will be but a foot note.
The animation is still top notch, like one should expect anything less from Pixar, and the story is just as exciting, funny, and engaging as the first two Toy Story films. There is a darkness to Toy Story 3 that wasn’t present in the first two entries in the trilogy. That darkness is a welcome addition to the series as it helps to bring the trilogy full circle. In a way that three films represent a life cycle, but in yet another tie to nostalgia the ending of Toy Story 3 shows that while the end may be scary it never truly has to be the end. What is in our hearts and the relationships that we form are what matter, not who we were or what we did. Nostalgia is great, but nostalgia is meaningless unless the feelings that accompany nostalgia are genuine and speak to what we hold dear. Buzz, Woody, and the gang are more than mere toys, they are us. They represent what we can accomplish in our lives as well as the relationships we can grow that will impact us and others. Life is dark, but if we surround ourselves with people that we care about then even the darkest days can grant us some light.
Pretty heady stuff from a movie for kids, no? The truth is that Toy Story 3, and by extension the entire Toy Story franchise, is far removed from simple kids fare. The child inside of me enjoyed Toy Story 3 just fine, but the adult in me had a blast while also finding all kinds of cinematic goodness to take away from the film. It may not be Pixar’s best film, but Toy Story 3 is a fitting end to what may just be the best cinematic trilogy I’ve ever seen. The toys will live on forever in short film, and that is a perfect place for their continued hijinks. Their cinematic adventures are over, or at least I’m fairly confident they are, and they couldn’t have gone out on a better, or more profound, note. Toy Story 3 is a great film for adult or child, and the type of film that highlights just why I watch movies.