Re:View – ‘Toy Story 3D’
I have a low pain threshold for American films about childhood; in this area the continents diverge, with Europe largely making films about the ugly, painful aspects of growing up and the US painting schoolday memories in day-glo hues. Wary also of a franchise that, while enjoyable, feels as if it reached the end of its natural life some time ago, it’s good to say that TS3D is an utter delight. The story is as before – toys go to wrong place, need rescuing, but the emotions here are subtler, more considered, more real than many non-animated films.
Andy is now 17 and heading off to college, which means leaving toys behind. Woody, Buzz and the gang look forward to a new lease of life in the attic (Andy’s folks have the sunniest attic in the world) but get dumped by mistake and end up in a daycare centre run by a folksy strawberry-smelling bear and his sinister Jan Svankmajer-like sidekick Big Baby. The motif here is Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, for while the centre seems like a dream-gig, it’s actually hell on earth. With Woody to the rescue, an Escape From Colditz-type plan is needed, and here the film turns genuinely suspenseful, with a terrifyingly creepy drum-banging monkey watching the CCTVs and an apocalyptic drop into the waste furnace.
New toys include Ken, who can’t resist modelling his cheesy fashions for Barbie, a social networking triceratops, thespy Mr Pricklepants the hedgehog and a trio of cloth peas in a pod. Buzz Lightyear accidentally gets set to Spanish mode, giving him a chance to show off his flamenco skills, and the end message about passing on the joy is outrageously sentimental in a way that only Hollywood can get away with. Whether you cry depends on how easily you let go of your childhood. I didn’t shed a tear, but then I couldn’t wait to be an adult, and it makes me wonder if many Americans – particularly those having to deal with the vicissitudes of a tough recession – regard their childhoods as the happiest times of their lives.
The 3D is dodgier and superfluous, and feels added – especially as much of the film unspools at night, where the extra dimension simply doesn’t work.The motivation of the villain is especially welcome – he’s a genuinely three dimensional character – and there’s a neat way of punishing him without being too cruel. One puzzle for UK viewers must surely be all these toys. We compared notes after and realised that none of us had such playthings as children – instead there were mostly books and boardgames, and our childhoods passed without access to plastic breakables. The toys are nostalgic ones, which makes the film as much for adults as kids. The film is an end-game, which neatly rounds off the trilogy.