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"Death by Monkeys!"

Written by Steven Walker

At this point, you have be Captain Obvious to say that Pixar is the best working movie studio in the world.  They have established their quality so thoroughly in the past 15 years that critics are starting to grade them on a curve.  The only thing you can compare Pixar movies to are other Pixar movies, since even their worst film (A Bug's Life or Cars depending on who you ask.  For me it's A Bug's Life.) is light years better than the average output of Hollywood.  Toy Story 3 may not be Pixar's best film, but it is absolutely the culmination of all their work up to this point.  It also may contain my single favorite scene in movie history.

And by the way, has it really been 15 years since the first Toy Story?  Was I really just 15 years old when my brain was melted by the pure cinematic awesomeness of that first Pixar classic?  Apparently so.  I remember sitting there in the theater thinking that I was witnessing the beginning of something huge.

For an entire generation, the characters of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Rex, Ham, Potato Head, etc. have been household names.  Children have grown up with these characters as dear to their hearts as many of their real life friends.  In Toy Story 3, the Pixar geniuses have no moral reservations about using this long term endearment to not just tug, but rip at our heartstrings.

And it doesn’t waste time, either.  The moment it is revealed that the toys’ elaborate plan in the opening sequence is just a desperate attempt to get Andy to play with them again is like a slap in the face. 

Some people have said this sequel is unnecessary.  They have said the series ended perfectly well with Toy Story 2.  I say you are crazy.  It is one thing to make the choice to stay with Andy even though he will stop caring about you one day…it is another thing entirely to actually confront that when it happens.  It would be a disservice to children everywhere to deny them the painful but necessary truth that we all have to grow up one day.

Another painful truth?  That Buster is old and fat and on the verge of death.  It’s played for laughs, but those laughs have tears right behind them.  Not because I feel sad for the potential loss of a cartoon dog, but because it is such an honest depiction of how time relentlessly marches on. By starting us out in this sad place, an extra layer of tension is added to the whole movie.

It almost plays like two different films.  The first hour plus is the actual Toy Story 3…a little Cool Hand Luke style prison escape flick redone in a Day Care Center.  The Day Care invokes both a nursing home and purgatory itself, while the excitement of the prison break is warped by the knowledge that even if they succeed, the toys will just be going into the attic for storage.

Of course the movie balances all this heaviness with plenty of hysterical bits like Attack of the Kindergarteners, Spanish Buzz, anything involving Ken & Barbie, and Mr. Potato Head’s tortilla adventure.    

Then the final 20 minutes arrive, and it plays like the climax of not just the Toy Story saga, but of the entire 15 year journey that led us here.  I’m trying to resist descending into meaningless hyperbole while discussing the incinerator scene.  I was not prepared for this.  I did not think even Pixar would be bold enough to show so many beloved characters literally looking into the fire, confronting death, and choosing to accept it.  The image of those toys grasping hands and surrendering to their fate may be the single most moving thing I have ever seen in a motion picture.  If you are not touched in at least some small way by this scene, then I probably don’t want to know you as a person.

On my first viewing…okay my first three viewings…I started crying here and honestly couldn’t stop until the credits rolled.  I love how the ultimate resolution provides a complete sense of closure to the story of Andy’s toys, while opening a new door for further adventures.  I hope that if there is ever to be a Toy Story 4, they will wait a very long time for it.  I’ve read that Pixar’s current plan is to do a series of shorts featuring these characters and that sounds like the perfect way for them to live on.  It’s amazing how many very real human emotions are inspired by these imaginary toys.

 

 

 

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