Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toy Story 3

Perfection has its own perils. Pixar has become so synonymous with quality that when it falls anywhere short of perfection it hard not to be a little too hard on them. Take Day And Night, the new short. Its all concept, all experimentation, a blend of 2D and computer animation that was clearly made just to see if it could be done. What its not is quite the comic masterwork that Pixar’s last two shorts were (Presto in particular is a literal gem. Like a lost Buster Keaton short remade by Chuck Jones and then computer animated). But still there’s that core of greatness there, that’s easy to forget. The fact that there’s a studio out there still willing to throw money at a pure experiment is tremendously exciting.

So when I say that for me at least, Toy Story 3 doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of Part 2, its because very few movies do. Toy Story 2 is a perfect storm, a beautiful, meticulously written film with a metaphoric perfection at the heart of its narrative that is simply boggling. Not because of any flaw in this excellent concluding part (And to be fair I felt the same way about Up, and multiple viewings have certainly raised my opinion on that film). Pixar once again demonstrates its artistic alchemy that borders on actual magic. And for all the complaints about the many flaws of the modern day movie landscape, I cannot help but feel anything but truly lucky every time I watch a Pixar film. To be a film fan here and now, and get to experience so many wonderful films, it’s a blessing.

Toy Story 3 is gold. It’s a film with so many great narrative turns that it feels unfair to spoil any of them. Pixar’s eye for casting remains impeccable (Ned Beatty in particular here), its script’s sharp and its artistry breathtakingly beautiful. And that’s really all you need to know. Any quibbles I have with the film are minor ones, and pretty unfair. For example (and I’m being purposefully vague here) at one point we visit another child’s gang of toys, and they’re so appealing I was sorry that we didn’t get to spend more time with them. Like I said, I know its unfair, there would really be no story driven reason for the film do to so. Its basically punishing Pixar for writing such an appealing cast rather then a bunch of bland placeholders, and filling their roles with the likes of the always welcome Bonnie Hunt, Timothy Dalton (who I have a tremendous amount of affection for since Hot Fuzz ) Jeff Garlin, and a freaking Totorro.

The other area of unease is the absence of John Lasseter. Now once again this isn’t fair, Lassetter is in no position to direct the film, what bothers me more is that no one really seems to care. While Brad Bird, Pete Doctor, and Andrew Stanton all get heaps of praise (rightfully). People always seem a bit stingy with Lasseter. Eager to write him off as the guy who made Cars. Never mind the fact that when taken in the context of his other work Cars is an immensely personal film. Never mind the fact that Lasseter created Pixar. And has fought tooth and nail to both make and keep the company what it is.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Pixar keeps moving people into the directors chair. Its very smart in the long term, and means that Pixar won’t have to face the problem that Ghibli is rapidly approaching, the fact that once Miyaziki and Takahata die (Ideally in about a billion years or so) they won’t have anyone there who can actually make films.

Still, if Lasseter’s absence from the project means he never will direct a film again then the world of animation has lost a unique and vital voice. And it’d be nice if that could be acknowledged.

Still these are all in the end minor problems. Given how lionized they’ve become it’d be easy for Pixar’s films to become airless, its kind of incredible how loose they are, and how much weird energy they allow in. Michael Keaton is a FREAK in this movie, giving a performance as the fetishtic Ken easily on par with Beetlejuice or any of his other early comedy work (And lets not even talk about "The Monkey").

But still, that doesn’t make Toy Story 3 light weight. And I’m not just talking about the heavy emotional buttons the film hits. If the central metaphor doesn’t have the perfect simplicity of Part 2 (Allow yourself to be played with or broken or seal yourself away). Its no less thought provoking.

As anyone who has a bit of a collector’s streak (OK a whole lot of a collector’s streak). There’s a lot of reasons I do what I do. There is of course the superficial level of enjoyment. I love having a huge amount of Books and films and comics I love on hand.. But there’s a little something deeper. So much of the culture is so inconsequential that there’s something beautiful about being able to choose what is of consequence. Because if you keep this book, or this film, or this music, then you get to keep it alive. And you get to pass it on. You might do it at a yard sale, or you might do it after your death at your estate sale. But every time you pick something up consciously or not, you are saying “This should continue.”

It might sound silly but everyone who cares, really cares about film, or literature, or music, becomes a living ark. Like the people at the end of Fahrenheit 451, we become the books.

But there comes a tipping point, where curating becomes hording. And that becomes poisonous. It can make you a little bitter. It can make you a little crazy. But worst of all it defeats the entire purpose, as the only way this stuff really works is if it gets out into the world.

And that’s what Toy Story 3 made me want to do, and what I think I will do. Get a big box full of my stuff and find some worthy hands for it.

Anything else would just be a waste.


Simon said...

Fantastic review, then. Thanks for not spoiling this, I'm saving meself for tomorrow.

robby431 said...

Great review. I loved it. I liked it a lot more than Toy Story 2 actually.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Simon: Aw thanks I can't wait to read what you think of it.

@ Robby: Thanks Robby. The reason I love Toy Story 2 is its like I said the greatest case of the story containing the message organically I've ever seen.

Daniel Hobson said...

Thanks very much for the review. I love Pixar's work yet was a little worrie on this one. Not sure why I doubted but there you have it.

Anyway great review that managed to really sell me without ruining a single thing. So thanks. Now I just have to wait cause Australia's not getting this for a while.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ratof13: I totally get the worry. Even someone with as much faith in Pixar as myself can't help but be a bit uneasy about their sudden embracing of sequels.

But there's nothing to fear from this one.

Calorie Mate said...

Yeah, the sequels are worrisome...mostly because of the ill timing with Disney acquiring Pixar outright. Of course Lasseter (glad to see someone else giving him such love, by the way) is in charge of their animation department, so I'm not TOO worried, but...

Anyway, Toy Story 3 was great. I'm also one of the people that think 2 wasn't so great...I mean, it's still Pixar and I loved it, but it lacked SOMETHING that I can't put my finger on. 3 was all love, though.

Bryce Wilson said...

Yeah it was bad luck with the announcements coienciding with Newt's cancellation.

I mean yeah for all we know the film didn't work, but its still didn't look good.