Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toy Story 3: A Ladybrain Review

Pixar, how do you manage to reveal our most embarrassing selves—the ones that cheer for robot love and burst into tears at the prospect of toy incineration?

The writers and animators at Pixar must have collectively sold their souls to Satan, because against all sequels-usually-suck odds, they’ve done it again.

The Toy Story franchise began back in 1995, following the adventures of a group of toys lovingly owned by a boy named Andy (John Harris—fun fact: Harris voiced Andy in all three films). Their misadventures with cool-toy-rivalry, a sadistic pyromaniac and, later, an evil collector’s toy in 1999’s Toy Story 2 center around Woody the cowboy (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and later, Jessie the cowgirl (Joan Cusack), in addition to a slinky-dog and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head among others.

Eleven years later, Toy Story 3 picks up where toy-owner Andy would be in real life: leaving for college. The toy gang has dwindled—old favorites like Bo Peep and Etch-A-Sketch have been lost along the way—and only the cream of the crop remain stashed in Andy’s toy trunk. He hasn’t opened the trunk in years, preferring more age-appropriate toys like electric guitar and a computer. The toys prepare themselves for a comfortable existence in the attic, but through a series of mistakes, they end up at a daycare center that promises endless cadres of kids who want to play with the toys. But the daycare, ruled by a mangy, strawberry-scented bear, might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Through some harrowing and often hilarious misadventures, the toys find their way to Andy, who has to make a choice about whether he can part with all of his old friends.

From the feminist view, there’s a lot of positive fodder to work with. Toy Story 3 does pass the Bechdel test. Female characters don’t have lengthy discussions with one another, but then again, this is a movie about toys getting from one place to another, so there’s not much in the way of philosophizing among the male characters, either.

Of the female toy characters, Barbie plays a funny and pretty awesome role, especially given the beauty standards and vapidity that are usually associated with the toy. Mrs. Potato head’s talent for removable organs sure comes in handy, and a creepy, mutinous baby plays a major role in the toys’ success. Jessie the cowgirl, known for her chutzpah and cunning, disappointingly doesn’t play as big of a role in the adventure portion, making way for a less-interesting but humorous romantic subplot involving her and Buzz.

While the moms in Toy Story 3 stereotypically do all of the nurturing, it seems that Andy’s father isn’t in the picture, literally—implied by a photo of Andy at his high school graduation with his mom and sister at his side. Thus, mom is the one doing the nurturing because she’s a single parent. And though Andy’s mom and sister are only in supporting roles, new character Bonnie co-stars as the delightful new incarnation of loving toy owner Andy. She’s just as imaginative and kind as her predecessor, and she just might be the best person to give his old companions a second wind.

Bechdel Test: Pass

Feminist Grade: B

Overall Movie Grade: A

Toy Story 3 dares you not to laugh out loud, or cry, or both. Watch the trailer here.

1 comment:

  1. Ms. Magazine had a drastically different analysis:

    I disagree on many points. I liked the Barbie character, and I thought Ken was more over-the-top vain than gay.