Movie Review: Big Toys Don’t Cry

In the interest of full disclosure, I’d just like to say that when I went off to college, I took He-Man and Luke Skywalker with me. The rest went in boxes in the attic for years until I could move them to a climate-controlled storage unit in North Hollywood, California, where they remain to this day. Someday, when I stop moving, I intend to rescue them and display them with the reverence and respect they deserve. Having said all that, perhaps I’m not the best audience for Toy Story 3, which asks the question, “What will happen to Andy’s toys when he goes off to college?”

For me and countless other fanboys, this is a non-issue. But I’m guessing from the heartbreaking events in the film that this is something normal people do when they grow up. They dump their toys. The Toy Story films could have continued, frozen in time, churning out adventures forever. Having Andy grow up and move on is a bold choice and speaks to the level of sophistication and emotion in this movie. But then, this isn’t new. There are moments in each of the films that achieve an emotional power rarely seen in even live action films. Like when Buzz Lightyear discovers the truth of his toy identity. Or when we learn Jessie‘s backstory. Now, there’s a moment in the new film that kills me, and it has nothing to do with Andy or the choices he makes. It’s all about the family the toys have created together and their love for each other. It is a devastating moment, and it’s because the filmmakers, animators and actors have made me love these characters and believe in them.

Most of the cast of characters return this time around, but after an amazing opening set piece where we get to see them at the height of their adventures (thanks to Andy’s imagination), we soon discover that Andy has grown up, and it’s been ages since he’s paid them any attention. The toys, still led by Woody and Buzz, try to regain his attention, but time is running out. Andy is getting ready to go to college, and for some reason, his mother wants his room cleared out. Andy is given a choice. Put the toys in the attic; donate them to a daycare center; or throw them away. What follows is a surprisingly dark and intense action/adventure movie with a deeply moving emotional punch.

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen continue to charm as the one-time rivals who now depend on each other to protect and serve the others in their plastic family. The rest of the cast, featuring Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger and Joan Cusack, bring years of comedic timing perfection to their roles. Joining the gang, we have Michael Keaton as Ken (of Ken and Barbie fame) in a performance that actually made me miss Michael Keaton. Timothy Dalton, Ned Beatty, Bonnie Hunt and Whoopi Goldberg make brief, but memorable cameos, as well.

From a technical point of view, the movie is flawless. Pixar continues to stun with their vivid and fluid animation. Plus, they seem to be the only studio who knows how and when to use 3D technology. I tried and failed to see the film in 2D, and I’m glad. However, I wonder why the glasses darken the film’s brightness. You’d think there would be a way to watch a 3D movie without the seemingly unnecessary sunglass tinting, especially a movie as bright and colorful as this.

The idea that toys could be something you outgrow, give away or forget about is a foreign concept to someone like me, and probably to a lot of you reading this. True, I spend most of my time admiring my toys, not playing with them, but the emotion is still there. If nothing else, I hope this movie encourages kids to cherish their toys and the time they have with them. And while the film seems to suggest that all imagination dies at 18, I hope kids walk away inspired to keep the magic alive in some aspect of their boring, uneventful lives. And hopefully sell their near-mint toys to me for cheap.

Besides maybe not being the intended audience for Toy Story 3, my only complaint is a completely unnecessary throw-away joke where one character thinks Ken might be wearing high heels. There are lots of ways the character could have reacted to it, and I suppose it’s progress that he just shrugs after his initial shock. Still, a more positive reaction, or at least one that didn’t seem so snide, would have been appreciated. However, the fact that they made Andy totally gay more than makes up for it.

On the FBOTU Scale of Fabulousness, I give Toy Story 3 five out of five emotionally drained emoticons:
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