Toy Story 3

I don’t know a lot about how animated features are produced, but even with computers now doing the bulk of the work, I felt it was a safe bet that Toy Story 3 was not going to be a problem. Given that it takes them years to produce these things, it seemed to me that trying to make hand-drawn characters look like they were shot with hand-held cameras would take forever, not to mention, just be stupid.

No, the only thing you had to worry about with Toy Story 3 was whether or not you had a box of Kleenex nearby and a bottle of water handy, for the copious weeping and subsequent dehydration that occurs during the course of the film.

There has been discussion for years about whether or not animated features should be allowed to be nominated for Best Picture. The category of Best Animated Feature has only been around since 2001, and many animators felt it was created to keep their pictures out of the Best Picture category. (Only three animated films have made it to the big category: Beauty and the Beast, Up and now Toy Story 3. Given the quality of the films that have come out of Pixar, it’s surprising that one hasn’t managed to snag the Oscar.)

Toy Story 3 won’t win either, but it sure held its’ own against some formidable competition. I can’t think of any of the other top 9 pictures that combined such heart, humor and memorable characters. The abandoned, zombie-like Big Baby gets my vote as the creepiest, yet most endearing doll ever drawn on film. There is a scene where the hero toys are trying to break out of the daycare center, and as they tiptoe through the playground, Woody spots Big Baby sitting on swing, barely moving, staring at the moon with her one good eye. It is both terrifying and heartbreaking, an image of such profound loneliness and despair that it could have been lifted directly from an Ingmar Bergman film. And the scene in the incinerator where it looked like the entire cast was going to burn up was as tensely riveting as any of the major action movies. Until they were saved by the Martians, which actually made it a little more realistic than The Expendables.

There were a number of articles written after the movie came out about how many people were openly sobbing during this film, about audience members remaining in their seats as they tried to compose themselves enough to leave the theater. I was one of those sodden messes. The Toy Story trilogy took place over a ten-year period, and when the first film came out, my son was the same age as Andy in the movie. He grew up in real time along with Andy and went off to college right around when number three came out. This film captures the exquisite joy and pain that comes from letting go of your kids, whether they are off to a downstate university or a daycare center down the street. Plus we got to see what Mr. Potato Head looked like as a hot young spud. A little something for everyone!

Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS! (Although to be fair, I did NOT see this in 3D, so I can’t speak for how that might have changed the ranking.)

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