Archive | February 23, 2011

Best Picture Nominee Five

Toy Story 3

Last time I checked this was my nephew **Sam’s** favorite movie. On one hand I can see why, on the other hand this scares me. I can’t believe this film is G-Rated. While it may seem out of place in the Best Picture category, there is quite a bit to like about Toy Story 3, so I’ll start there.

{Spoiler alert: I discuss specific plot points that you might not want to read until you’ve seen the movie.}

The Good

It’s hard to resist the gorgeous visuals from most any Pixar movie and from a Toy Story movie in particular. As a child of the 80s, the depiction of the recognizable toys from my youth are my favorite: Barbie & Ken, Chatter Telephone, and Mr. Potato Head (even the cameo by the farm-themed See ‘n Say toy during the gambling scene). With this latest installment of the Toy Story franchise, we meet a whole new set of toys at the Sunnyside Daycare Center.

This was the best part for me—seeing how the artists give life to a whole new set of toys and how they expertly set the scene of a daycare center from the drawings hanging up on the wall to the cubbies to the outdoor sandbox. In junior high my friend **Anna** and I volunteered at a daycare center down my street and seeing this film brought back memories of sippy cups and nap time for me.

It is easy to relate to part of this story, whether you are a toddler or an adult, and this is surely why the Toy Story movies have been so popular—these are movies you can usually enjoy with the whole family. However, I was surprised (see below) with some of the content of this latest installment.

On the whole, the first part of the story had me reflecting about what it means to “grow up” and I appreciated that. It also had me feeling like a kid at points too, which is another part of the Toy Story charm. In addition, I enjoyed the dialogue (again, it can be enjoyed by young and old) and the cast of familiar, as well as new voices.

Check out the creative and interactive Toy Story 3 Official Website to see all of the new toys, play games, and hear music from the movie.

The Bad

As I commented above, I am surprised that this movie garnered a G Rating. I’m used to kids’ movies including a moral and allowing young viewers to explore new worlds, feelings, and occasionally to confront the scariness of the real world from the safety of their chairs, but this was too much for me.

Unlike the death of a loved one explored in other Disney movies from Bambi to Finding Nemo to Lion King (which were all controversial in their day) this movie overtly tackles potent and timely adult anxieties beyond the death of a loved one.

Not only do we experience the threat of death (of every single one of the beloved main characters) by incinerator (do I have to spell out the connection to WWII?) but we see the reign of terror imposed by a totalitarian regime complete with intimidation, jail cells, torture, and reprogramming. In one of the scenes we even see the specter of a guarded watchtower in the background reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. While it is a jungle gym by day that has been cleverly turned into a temporary watchtower at night does this make it any less scary?

For me, it makes it even scarier to think that the familiar could be turned into tools for evil—like the reprogramming of Buzz. In an age of sleeper cells, suicide bombs, and human rights abuses I understand why these themes are at the forefront of our consciousness. All of these adult anxieties are presented in a lighthearted way for the most part, but can’t we let kids be kids for just a little while longer?

Explore what it means to say good-bye to old friends, to grow up, to be left behind, to lose one’s imagination—fine, but can’t you do that without involving a gang of rejected toys bent on revenge reminiscent of the Third Reich?

I understand that this movie was also made for the children who watched the original 15 years ago and for the parents of toddlers who will be forced to watch this on DVD over and over again. But, that’s just the point. A story like this (albeit with a happy ending) passes along our society’s current anxieties to the youngest among us through multiple showings. Is this what we want to teach our children?

How long do kids these days really get to be free to play with their toys before worrying about how scary the world can be?

I really wanted to like Toy Story 3 but I’m going against the popular sentiment on this one. With this year’s crop of stellar films I don’t even think it should be up for Best Picture.

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