It Sucks Being a Toy

Movie Review: Toy Story 3 (2010)
Spoilers: none


Technology keeps raising the bar in movie animation just like it does in the making of video games. It's damn hard for me to accept the fact that side-scrolling games like Ninja Gaiden (Arcade Version) which came out when I was in high school wouldn't be popular if it were released today. Even so, Hanna-Barbera-style art has fallen out of favor in exactly the same way. We expect more from our animation.

Fanciful CGI work has become the norm and more loved than the classics of the last 50 years of movies. To think that an entire generation doesn't understand why Gone With The Wind was a great film is rather sad, but the same generation understands that CGI-produced characters can act better than real actors. That point is undisputed since CGI “actors” are the result of going back and tweaking the smirks and nods and every little blink of the eyes unto perfection.

Toy Story 3 is as impressive as anything you’ve seen from Pixar. The attention to detail is expectedly unsurpassed in showy and succulent sophistication, and I'm sorry to report that this fact does not do the movie any favors. Toy Story 3, apart from being awesomely crafted to the point of making you crap your pants, is as much of a let-down as any other D+ movie.

It's an animated, cartoon world inside an animated, cartoon world. These toys are alive in a very creepy-when-thought-about way. Given the premise of the film, not only have your toys seen every naughty thing you every did in your bedroom growing up, but they're used to contending with as much or more of the same drama you live with on a daily basis in the real world. It's amazing they don't fight amongst themselves and forget to hide before being walked in on.

And the premise of living and lonely toys that crave attention and want to be “played with” (a sadly suggestive phrase used way too many times in the film) is the stuff of nightmares. Yes, nightmares. These toys need to “breathe” and they fear being kept in attics or bags. And they hate being played with roughly when they are banged on the coffee table by a three-year-old or thrown against a wall. The Fisher-Price toys must have it the worst! It was interesting to learn that toys also chat on the internet when no humans are around.

For those of us with overactive imaginations and shelves and shelves full of childhood toys we once loved to play and sleep with, this is too much to handle. My toys already whispered to me: “Why don't you play with me anymore? I miss being your toy.” Now I can hear them louder. They're jealous, too. My toys of today have warm breasts and demand consoling regularly. I joke about things like that, but I couldn't be more moved (or should I say, bothered).

It sucks being a toy. Every armless G.I. Joe that's been dipped in paint and crushed under a garage door or buried in the mud is feeling that pain—physical and psychological. How many of your toys would you bet are still buried outside somewhere in the sandbox of your old house? Maybe just two or three, but they've been there since the late 80s or earlier, right? And they're waiting in a mental Gehenna for some kid to come along and find them. The implications of this are too horrible to describe at length.

So I'll call it like I see it and take the guff from the majority of critics: this is a mild but maniacal horror film, unfortunately targeting little kids who are already crying about losing their favorite toys and security blankets when they leave them at grandma's house for the weekend. It would be hard to imagine a more horrendous existence than being a toy like one of these discarded ones; take, for instance, this giant, neglected baby doll with a sinking eye, or a bitter and disowned strawberry bear named “Lotso” (Ned Beatty, voice) who runs a prison house where donated toys imprison the newly donated ones. Yep, this is what nightmares are made of, just a little less intense than something of the Tim Burton persuasion. With good animation having become commonplace, this film is memorable only because it is terrifying.

I nearly wish I hadn't seen this movie. All it did was cajole me into imagining a fictitious world where every toy I ever owned has for years been crying out to me from the closet for help, and I've not been able to respond. Sure, it's just fiction, but you know what the metaphysics nuts say: once an idea exists, it has a life of it's own, so in some sense, everything ever conceived exists in some queer aspect. At the least, the idea takes root in us and lives on, thus giving us a personal heaven or hell of one kind or another. 

Neverminding the fact that there is simply no reason for this sequel's sequel to exist, Toy Story 3 will tug at your heartstrings, which will offset its awful premise that might give you nightmares the next time your mind wanders to those broken, headless, and legless toys left forgotten in the attic.



Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: G (should have been rated PG for all the scenes of intense terror)
Director: Lee Unkrich
Summary: Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, departs for college.
Starring: Tom Hanks "Woody" (voice), Tim Allen "Buzz Lightyear" (voice), Joan Cusack "Jessie" (voice), Ned Beatty "Lotso" (voice), Don Rickles "Mr. Potato Head" (voice)," Michael Keaton "Ken" (voice)
Genre: Animation / Adventure / Comedy / Family / Fantasy