Sunday, June 27, 2010
Take the Edge Off with Toy Story 3, or Grumpy Movie Review: Toy Story 3
Yet again I post a late version of Take the Edge Off, this time due to a big graduation party for Mrs. Grump-to-be's cousins, of which I believe she has about 30 or 40. After getting back we didn't really want to do anything in the 95 degree heat, so we went to catch Toy Story 3. This is a slight shift from my posts about Nightmare on Elm Street and Phantasm, and yes I usually tend towards the violent/gory/dark/adult/raunchy/more violent movie genres, but Mrs. Grump-to-be has been a good influence on me in terms of expanding my theatrical palette. Our first date was a drive-in that was playing Madagascar, and in the 5 years since I've seen pretty much every major animated release (except Wall-E for some reason), and I have to admit they are a lot of fun and make for a good balance to my usual fare.
I was a bit concerned about Toy Story 3, however, but only because it's rare that the third installment of any movie is ever good. Shrek 3 was pretty sub par, and while I haven't seen it I have yet to meet anyone who said Spider-Man 3 was anything more than a crime against the first two movies. So, I was a bit tentative about how entertaining it could be to watch Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy's toys deal with the conflicts that arise from being toys yet again. Plus, I'd only seen bits and pieces of Toy Story 2, and there is a large part of me that views watching movies out of sequence as sacrilegious. But Mrs. Grump-to-be had been itching to see it for a while and the reviews were all really good so I gave it a try, and was rewarded by a great movie.
While the overall production value of all animated movies has increased at an amazing rate, I think what I like the most about Pixar movies is that, no matter what the topic, I am in for a display of epic grandeur. In the case of Toy Story 3, the whole film takes place in a small portion of a small town, yet as Woody and Co. find themselves accidentally donated to the local daycare center as Andy prepares for college, the movie takes on the characteristics of great escape movies like... well, The Great Escape, I suppose. All you have to do is replace asshole fascist nazis with asshole fascist toys. Suddenly, a thrown-away toy is a casualty of war, and to be honest it actually made me feel bad for all of the toys that I've thrown away over the years. But then I remember it's a goddamn toy and it doesn't have feelings or Tom Hanks' voice. But still...what if they did?
Returning to the topic of trilogies, I think the best thing that Toy Story 3 has going for it is that it was comfortable with ending the series on a satisfying note without forcing an overblown finale or deliberately leaving the door open for another movie. I'm guessing that since Pixar usually seems to have a handful of irons in the fire (I hear that Cars 2 is on the way) they don't need to milk a franchise until it becomes stale. Again, I need to mention about how Shrek 3 screwed the pooch. So the writers for Toy Story 3 had the luxury of making sure they did this thing right, which they very much did. When the end credits started to roll, none of the characters fates are left hanging, and no questions are left unanswered. And, better yet, they were all answered well.
Whether part of a trilogy or not, few animated films do well if they don't include a lot of great laughs, and Toy Story 3 did not disappoint. The main characters all hit of their notes, including a fantastic scene with a "Mr. Tortilla Head," but the stand-out for me was a metrosexual Ken doll voiced by Michael Keaton. This may just be a personal thing for me, however, as I just like the idea of Michael Keaton getting more good work. He's one of those underrated actors who has a lot of great roles under his belt like Johnny Dangerously (why, hello there, future Take the Edge Off post), Batman, and, of course:
Unfortunately, Keaton seems to have fallen off the radar a bit lately, but with his turn as Ken and an upcoming role in the Mark Wahlberg/Will Ferrell buddy comedy movie The Other Guys, maybe Keaton is building towards a comeback.
At this point it shouldn't be too much of a surprise when Pixar releases a good movie, but this was the first time they'd gone back to the same story for a second time, which is a task that has proven to be too much for many other good writers/directors. However, with Toy Story 3, Pixar avoided the pitfalls of a trilogy-ender and gave Andy's toys a great send off. Hopefully Cars 2 does well so that, finally, we can see the Incredibles sequels that Mrs. Grump-to-be and I have been waiting for since the last one ended.