Toy Story ThreeFinally – the review I promised a few days ago. Sorry for the delay. I hadn’t figured on the “hangover effect” from the trip home from Minnesota, followed by waking up at 3:00 a.m. to get in line for iPhone 4 (another story, for another time).

I did get to see Toy Story 3 on the Saturday of opening weekend, with Mrs. AJRitz and both kids (it was Squeaker’s first in-theater movie). We saw it in 3D at the movie theater at Mall of American in Minneapolis. There have been plenty of reviews of this movie published all over the ‘net, so I’m not going to spend time rehashing plot details. Rather, I’m going to focus on a few distinct things that I’ve been thinking about since seeing the movie.

Overall Impression
Toy Story 3 gets an A+ from me. I thought it was a terrific film. The script was outstanding – it did a nice job of weaving together a story that children could follow with deeper subtexts for the parents. I challenge any DISDad to leave the theater without shedding a tear – I know I didn’t.

Visual Presentation
As always, the animation from Pixar was gorgeous. No animation house does a better job conveying story with the expressions on characters’ faces than Pixar. The 3D was very well done, it added depth without becoming a gimmick. That said, I think I could have saved the 3D surcharge and been perfectly happy seeing Toy Story 3 on a big screen in 2D.

Story Notes
(Warning: Possible Spoiler Material Contained Herein) There is no doubt that the Toy Story 3 story is substantially darker than either of the first two films. I think the reason for this is that, in previous Toy Story movies, the villain was always a person.  In the first movie, the villain was Sid, the child who abused toys. Woody overcame his jealousy and he and Buzz united the toys to teach Sid a lesson. In the second movie, we actually get our first exposure to a “bad toy” – Stinky Pete. But the real villain is still Al, who would lock toys away in a museum for profit, instead of put them in the hands of children to be played with. Again, the toys come together in a show of true friendship. Woody and Buzz ultimately put all of the Roundup Gang in the hands of children to be played with – even Stinky Pete.

In Toy Story 3, the people barely exist. They are merely tools for transporting toys from place to place or playing with/abusing toys for the vast majority of the film. But the villains are toys – a whole preschool room full of them. I think that this is the real source of Toy Story 3’s darkness. We’ve seen Woody and Buzz and friends in “mortal peril” over and over again in the previous films. But this is the first time that we’ve seen toys act maliciously toward one another, without remorse or regret. It’s the first time that the Toy Story movies have revealed that there ARE evil toys. (In the original film, the toys that we are led to think  might be evil turn out to be helpful, they’re just victims of Sid).

I don’t point this out to denigrate TS3’s story. As I said earlier, I think this script is brilliant. It does a remarkable job of telling a multi-layered story and of hearkening back to the earlier films in ways that make all three feel of a piece. But as DISDads, we probably need to go in prepared both to talk to elementary-aged kids about the scary parts and to deal with younger kids who may be legitimately scared by the “evil” toys.

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