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Toy Story 3

Woody, Buzz and the rest are here for a final time (they say). You know beforehand what a final outing must involve: either the lid slamming shut on the toybox or some kind of obsolescence/charity jaunt to Africa. The kid is going to grow up and leave them behind, tears will be shed (by you, bucketloads), they may even be binned or incinerated (surely not?).

It speaks volumes that I speculated about the fate of animated characters. I didn’t want it to end badly. I know we’re talking about renderings and computer graphics and so on, but still…I took my little brothers to watch the first film in…etc. And that (and the follow-up) was a great piece of ‘family entertainment’ appealing to one-and-all. It was funny, charming, smart and sophisticated. It looked good. Randy Newman did the soundtrack (as he does for all three films). It was genuinely ‘feel-good’.

And this is more of the same, only slightly less so. The feel-good factor, naturally, takes a back seat as matters are drawn to a close in a (partly) necessarily unhappy fashion. Andy is college-bound (this being a handy demarcation point between youth and adulthood) and is finalising his packing before the trip away. The toys anxiously await their fate: he can’t take them with him, but will they end up attic-ridden and box-ensconced or something more auspicious? Or perhaps melted down or mangled by the garbage collectors?

Well, he sentimentally opts to include Woody amongst his departure effects and decides to shove the rest in the loft. Only they don’t get there after a predictable mix-up – and instead end up at a day-care centre where they get a serious (and seriously funny) workout at the clammy, clasping hands of amok toddlers. It’s the kindergarten equivalent to a relentless mafia hiding. Things have taken a macabre turn, our beloved toys are pahtzeed into hard labour and brunt-bearing the whims of savage infants by a nefarious group of ruined toy masters (a Ned Beatty-voiced character turning dastardly – who’d’ve thought?), and so it goes. And that’s without mentioning a comparitively massive baby-doll with nightmarish, wonky Thom Yorke eyes cast in the role of a rather impassible Frankenstein-esque conveyor of torment. Troubling.

Woody, meanwhile, ends up fluking a berth amongst a delightful future-geek’s playthings, but does the right thing and sets out to rescue his incarcerated chums. The film sags slightly as the run-up to the showdown kicks into gear (impossible though this suggestion is: I couldn’t help thinking that Toy Story 3 might’ve become an almost unbearably poignant masterpiece if, at this point, most of the toys met their demise in order to save Woody and Buzz – a kind of mass-toy-suicide-for-the-greater-good that could speak subtle volumes re: the current economic crisis/worldwide instability/environmental resources/etc – like I say, perchance an ill-advised speculation) and we head toward a far-too-schmaltzy final scene that, played more assiduously and with less yanking on the tear-ducts, could’ve been far more devastating than is the case. I vacillated, as the franchise wound down, between genuine sadness and gurning cringing.

Anyway, the whole thing looks as invigorating and inviting as it ever did and, mere quibbles aside, is a relatively fitting resolution to still the best of Pixar.

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