Thursday, 29 July 2010

Toy Story 3 (2010)

* * * *

(Dir. Lee Unkrich, 2010)

Toy Story 3 resists a trend almost exclusive to mainstream cinema - the third instalment we (rightly) love to hate. This summer, Pixar can celebrate hurdling the historic infamy of gum like Terminator 3, Die Hard 3 and for a few, and to a lesser extent, even The Godfather Part III. The simple pleasures are back, the power of metaphor has doubled, or should it be said, trebled?

Tom Hanks, Joan Cusack and Tim Allen are still starring as voiceovers for the top toys - cowboy Woodie, cowgirl Jessie and astronaut, Buzz Lightyear. And for some tongue-in-cheek innovation, former Batman Michael Keaton is drafted in to cameo as Barbie's Ken.
Now that American kid Andy is all grown up and packing for college, it's time for his miniature vigilantes to go. Where to? The local daycare centre, Sunnyside. It is hard to imagine how deportation and cruelty, hand in hand, could be better parodied. Certainly not in animation. For humans, Sunnyside is a shelter for innocence. For dolls and action-figures, this is a totalitarian state where all toys are equal, but some toys are more equal than others, and no one gets out alive.

The revered autocrat is Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear. Once lost and replaced by a girl, the teddy has displaced his worthlessness onto a brainwashable community. He has a monkey working CCTV, sleaze-champ Ken warding the cells at night and an octopus capturing runaways.
In reviewing Toy Story 3, Peter Bradshaw paid special attention to the metaphor of the obsolete parent. Perhaps the trump poignant frame of the film is that of Andy, thoughtfully holding up Woodie and Buzz Lightyear before letting go. Family and the domestic are inscrutable, but independence is the only way forward.

It is no more ambitious to read the movie through Andy's quiet story of self-disenfranchisement - a life now led on a laptop - which is a portrait of the postmodern adult with no excuses for the facebook chatterbox, the inbox-desperado, the pornographer, the busy buyer, the blogger. So much so that when he donates his toys to a little girl, Andy can only come across as cutesy: the boring flicker in the film when wryness is put to one side.
Meanwhile the gags work and as always, pin us to laughter. Since the TV arrival of Seth McFarlane, the now cosmic legacy of The Simpsons, and not to mention the several successful animated movies which Toy Story inspired, Pixar are still able to make the anthropomorphism of (digital) doodles funny. A battery accident sees Buzz switched to Spanish mode, and a Latin-amorous astronaut is trying to seduce a cowgirl. An English thespian, an old-timer Chuckles and the aforementioned Ken are three more puns to savour.

Opening on the same weekend as Inception, Pixar's newest achievment is a movie which doesn't force reviewers into adjective-Olympics. What it comes down to is this: Toy Story 3 is something for kids and for adults; Inception is a fascination for the adolescent and, ironically, the wish-thinker. Let's really hope that Toy Story has ended, or is ending, on a high. That to infinity and beyond remains a catchphrase, and does not become a mantra for its writers.

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