Speaking of children’s movies with surprising maturity…
All you need to understand about how good this movie is can be distilled down to a single sentence: at the climax of the movie, when the characters are being dragged helplessly down towards a burning furnace, I honestly believed that this movie was going to end with all the toys being burned alive. I was that convinced by this movie’s commitment to expressing the deep sadness of the plight of the forgotten toy.
All of the of the Toy Story films have explored similar territory, of course. A toy is only important in the life of a child for so long, and then he grows up and doesn’t need it anymore. But if a toy was a living, feeling object, how would that toy feel to be thrown aside so readily? How does a toy adapt to not being needed anymore?
This being a Pixar movie, the answer is: in as amusing a fashion as possible. Were there any comedies this year as consistently funny as this film was?For a movie they reportedly didn’t want to make (feeling they’d sufficiently completed exploring the themes available in Toy Story 2) but were forced to by the studio, the film avoids all the traps that sequels fall into. It isn’t endlessly self-referential, nor full of in-jokes, and it doesn’t tell the same plot as last time from a slightly different angle. Instead, it explores the theme intrinsic to a toy’s life: “what happens when I’m not needed anymore?”
Some of the Pixar films age better than others, and after two straight films that were more impressive but felt less re-watchable (Wall-E, Up), it’s nice to see them return to their biggest strength: making films that people of any age can watch over and over again.