Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie: Toy Story 3 (and short: Day and Night) ***/****

Yesterday I drove my 12-year-old niece and her friend to see Toy Story 3, with some trepidation. My niece is right on that shaky age when she is just old enough to pretend that she doesn't really like such kid fare, but she'll still let her aunt drag her out to see it. She also has multiple Twilight posters, and is adamantly Team Edward.

I will pause while some readers shudder.

Fortunately Toy Story 3 was a bit less offensive to my pro-choice, pro-ethical-slut, feminist sensibilities. First, as with all Pixar films, we were treated to a short: this one was called Day and Night, a clip of which you can see here. In it, two odd, blob-like beings who represent the opposite extremes of, you guessed it, day and night encounter, fear, and eventually befriend one another. Using the broadcast of a Wayne Dyer speech, the short drives home a message of tolerance and acceptance, insisting that the unknown (representated as being anything different from ourselves, implicitly identified as race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.) need not be something to fear, just as Day and Night find commonality in a single moment when sunrise and sunset intersect. I was deeply pleased to see Pixar aim such a blunt message of acceptance at children, and can only hope that it sinks in with this whole generation of younglings.

As for the movie itself, it did have rather odd monotheistic undertones. Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and cowgirl Jessie return for a bittersweet installment: their 0wner Andy has all grown up and is preparing to go away to college, literally setting childish things aside. Some of the living toys prepare themselves for Attic Mode, in which they wait among the dust in the hopes that some day Andy will have kids and will pass them along to be played with. There's a mixup, though, and instead of the attic the toys wind donated to a daycare center, where they're threatened by both rambunctious toddlers and the sinister Care-Bear-knockoff Sir Lotsa Love.

The aforementioned monotheistic themes lurk in the toys' devotion to Andy. Woody encourages the others to spend years, even decades, in the attic waiting and hoping for the day that Andy will have use of them again; they all speak of him as the only source of hope or joy in the universe, and fall astray only after they mistakenly believe that he has abandoned them; Lotsa even asks, "Where is your God kid now?" at a dicey juncture. If The Chronicles of Narnia is a metaphor for the Christian God, full of self-sacrifice and forgiveness, then Toy Story 3 is the tale of an Old Testament God, asking for sacrifice and (hopefully, but not guaranteed) revealing itself as benevolent in the end.

I suppose how one feels about these underlying God-themes depends a lot on one's world view. They didn't bother me so much. I was too busy detecting whether or not the film passed the Bechdel Test (it did) and the Mohr Test (it didn't), and attempting to keep my teenaged niece and her friend from seeing me tear up at a kid's film. (Oh, what. Shut up. I dare you to watch the sequence in the landfill and NOT choke up.)

Another point of interest was the character of Ken (as in, a Ken doll). Inclined towards flowery cursive hand-writing and obsessed with clothes, Ken is first introduced as a low-level and disrespected flunky to the villain Lotsa; however, he eventually switches allegiance to the good guys due to his love for a delightfully-assertive Barbie (even after she tortures him for information -- by ripping up all his best outfits). Prone to wearing his girlfriend's scarves and being gooey with his emotions, Ken breaks a lot of heteronormative rules, yet winds up co-leading the toys of the daycare center towards a more egalitarian lifestyle after Lotsa is out of the picture. It's a character refreshingly free of stereotypes, and I can only hope my young nephew goes to see the movie sometime himself.

In all, a well-made film with some tolerant messages. I liked it.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, it was adorable, fun and quite progressive! although I cringed a bit during that sequence where they were like LOL WE THOUGHT IT WAS BARBIE'S FLOWERY HANDWRITING BUT AKSHLY IT'S KEN LOL. The clothes-torture scene was pure BRILLIANCE though.