30 June 2010

Thoughts On: Toy Story 3

I saw Toy Story 3 in a theatre that was packed with very young children.  It was a Friday matinee.  The wife and I were the only childless adults. 

And for the most part, the little kids--the really little ones--hated the movie.

I'm not surmising here.  I could hear pleas to leave the theatre begin around the one hour mark, about the time Woody and his buddies were being sodomized by G.I. Joe and the Masters Of The Universe (well, not quite, but close). 

After the lights came up I heard a parent ask his kids what they thought.  They said "it was all right" and "sure, it was neat", but they sounded... well, a little PTSD to me.  A little further on I heard another mom solicit a similar opinion from her kid, only this one sounded like they'd seen Saw III on acid.

Toy Story 3 is a rough ride.  It was well done, well intentioned and spry, to be sure (it's Pixar, after all).  But it wasn't, I dunno, completely thought out.  Certainly it wasn't tailored to its primary audience: really little kids.  By that I don't mean it wasn't dumbed down enough.  I mean it simply didn't balance out its thrills, chills and guffaws.  At least I thought so. 

Let's look at its progression:

First act: heavy downer as the toys fret over their fate now that their owner doesn't love or need them anymore.

Second act: toys are incarcerated and menaced repeatedly.

Third act: toys run for their lives and face murder, abandonment, and incineration.

Coda: toys come to grips with being passed on.

And just think of all the times the toys had to watch 17 year old Andy practice his "favourtite new game."  That's really rough.

I don't wanna be a downer or anything--or, worse yet, come off like some reactionary helicopter mom--but TS3 threw a lot of heavy stuff at the little ones.  Imagine a Disney film that's Bambi in the first act (with Bambi's mom gets shot), Pinochio in the second act (all that scary donkey s**t) and, I dunno, Terminator 2 in the last act.  Then the usual bittersweet stuff right at the very end. 

Hey, I know fairy tales and kids movies are supposed to have rough stuff in them.  They're how kids learn about deep life stuff in a safe and entertaining way.  The witch in the thunderstorm at the end of Snow White is one of the few stark memories of my otherwise hazy and poorly remembered childhood, and I'm glad the memory is there.  But this felt a little like piling on.

Maybe I feel this way because there weren't enough jokes.  A bit with Mr. Potato head getting his parts attached to a tortilla was good.  So was Spanish Buzz Lightyear. 

Ah well, it's a nifty film nonetheless, and its menace will be thankfully dulled and placed in perspective when it hits DVD.  The kids'll love them ovie then, with the giant, enforcer baby toy (that's right: giant, enforcer baby toy!) and roaring, Hellish city dump incinerator safely contained on 42 inches in the day room, and the FF button available to be pressed if needed.

Between this and the bittersweet, melancholy Up--where I also noticed that the kid next to me wasn't having a great time--it seems like Pixar is interested in making great films with many layers and tons of emotional resonance... but stiffing the little brats in the meantime. 

It's no snow on my neck.  After all, I'm childless.  I'm a member of a sweet DINK set-up.  If that's where they want to take things, I'm all for it.  I like bittersweet.  I like layered.  I like giant, enforcer baby toys. 

...

,.. okay, the giant enforcer baby toy kinda freaked me out.