I love movies. Plain and simple. I love going to the theater and being thrilled by a new film. I love how a great film makes me feel like I can dream and do anything. I even love experiencing the wonders and the magic of a great film on my own television, in the comfort only my home can provide. It does not replace a great theatrical experience, but it serves its purpose. Sadly, those magical moments inspired by great films have been too few and much too far between in recent years. Sure, there are some films that won me over, and there are many films in the past few years that I truly enjoy, but it seems like the batting average is going down, as if filmmakers are in a bit of a slump. They have a few big hits in them, but overall, their production is waning.
Never fear! Pixar is here!
If there is one studio that sets the gold standard is quality, creative filmmaking, it is Pixar. Their output is spectacular, to say the least. They have lovingly crafted some of the finest films ever to grace the big or small screen, and their most recent entry, Toy Story 3 is no exception. Let’s be honest for a second, Toy Story 3 had the decked stacked against it from the beginning. It was a sequel to two of the most beloved of all the Pixar films. It was continuing the story that Toy Story 2 seemed to have concluded so satisfactorily. And finally, 3rd films in trilogies tend to disappoint.
Thankfully. Amazingly. Triumphantly, Toy Story 3 does not disappoint. It does not feel perfunctory. It takes everything that audiences loved in Toy Story and Toy Story 2 and it builds on those things. While the story is probably not as original as the two previous installments, the sheer creativity on display was enough to push that thought right out of my mind. Not to mention that this is without a doubt the most emotionally wrenching and satisfying Pixar film to date. I cried. People all around me in the theater cried. I saw a woman and her teenage daughter holding each other at the end they were so overcome with emotion. And it is not sentimental, regardless what some jaded critics and viewers have said. All the emotions in this film are earned – because we have spent time with these characters and experienced their joys and fears alongside them. Woody, Buzz, Slinky, Mr. Potato Head, Ham, and the rest of the bunch are part of our family now. My children are growing up with their adventures seared into their minds and hearts. They are better for it. We are all better for it. These “children’s stories” tell us more about love, acceptance, friendship, life, and death than just about anything else that I have encountered and they do it in such a simple, entertaining way that it leaves me awestruck.
Too often these days I walk away from a film unmoved or uninspired. Too often I feel as if I have to work up excitement for a film, trying to convince myself that the film was actually good. Never again. Pixar has proven once again that we don’t have to lower our expectations. We don’t have to settle any more. One of my favorite film critics – Drew McWeeny (aka: Moriarty) wrote this about The Fellowship of the Ring on December 13th, 2001, just days before its release:
And in the meantime, I vow to quit settling. I have decided that I am done forgiving. I have seen that it can be done, that real perfection is possible in film, and I am not willing to settle anymore.
Great films have this sort of power and for that I will be forever grateful to Pixar Studios. They have raised the bar for everyone. This is the best film of the year and it might well be the best Pixar film ever. But don’t take my word for it. Go, see it for yourself. You will thank me later.