My day as a six year old

I played hooky like a six year old yesterday and watched Toy Story 3 in the morning, Despicable Me in the afternoon and The Princess And The Frog on DVD at night. I would say my brain went on vacation for the day – but, dang, those are some thoughtful kiddie movies.

Now I'm going to make things worse by blogging about it all. So much for vacation. Minor SPOILERS ahead...

Despicable Me is a hoot through and through and features a funny and moving performance by Steve Carell as protagonist super-villain Gru. The performance is so good that... well, I'm not sure how much movie is left without the performance. Perhaps that's unfair. The end of the film is predictable – but there's nothing wrong with that. Macbeth is predictable, too. We know where most moral lessons are headed, and most moral lessons are still valuable.

Here's the real problem: ten minutes after leaving the theater, my mind was still churning over the movie I had just seen... three hours before: Toy Story 3. Perhaps if I'd reversed the order in which I watched the films, I might appreciate Despicable Me more. But not to worry: the target market for both films, Precious Nephew (age almost 5), was so thrilled by Despicable Me he never touched his popcorn. So there.

I enjoyed The Princess and the Frog as well. It has a nicely nuanced moral message -- neither fully pro wishing-on-a-star, nor fully against -- and the film is beautiful. I should have caught it in theaters. I will have to remember that for Tangled – Disney's upcoming Rapunzel reboot. Tangled trailers played in front of all three movies yesterday, though the version that played in front of Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me was an oddly male-centric cut. Hm.

The animation of Frog's Tiana and the few glimpses of Tangled's Rapunzel, make clear that Disney animation still does better than anyone else the thing it has done better than anyone else since Beauty and the Beast: animate female faces that are attractive, interesting and funny all at the same time. Those girls might be drawings, but they are d*mn fine actresses, too. Nobody does female faces like Disney.

And then there's Toy Story 3.

I can't say I walked out of this film happy, but at a full twenty-four hours later, I'm still thinking about it. It's clearly a great movie. Is it too deep and tragic for kids? Maybe... though I loved deep and tragic as a kid. Perhaps the folks at Pixar have simply decided to make great movies, and don't care if we call them kiddie movies or not. They've earned that right – and proved they can do it, too.

The end of the film is absolutely the right end, but it's a tough one for me. I gave away my vast, beloved Breyer horse collection when I went to college, and I still feel terrible about it – though I know I made two little girls insanely happy. I certainly don't know what I'd do with a room-sized plastic horse collection now. But here comes Toy Story 3 to make me feel even worse about my decision since I kept my Woody – my very first Breyer horse, who has spent many years now in a cardboard box in my dad's guest room. I hope he isn't too lonely. Eesh. I suck. Thanks, Toy Story 3!

Anyway, I found an early moment in the film particularly stunning. Teenage Andy must decide what to do with his old toys before he leaves for college. He scoops the entire collection into an attic-bound plastic bag. At the last moment, he pulls Woody alone from the pile and places him in a college-bound cardboard box. This is the moment that pays off Woody's extra burden of moral responsibility through the entire series. He secretly believes he's special – because he IS special. And as the special one, he will be called upon to make a sacrifice before the series can end.

I am reminded of sci-fi/horror gem Pitch Black. At the start of that movie, a space pilot played by Radha Mitchell punches a button to jettison her sleeping human cargo. The entire movie waves its hands around for the next hundred minutes to make you forget that you know Ms. Mitchell needs to balance that pushed button with a major sacrifice before the end. Toy Story 3 waved its hands around admirably. I really did not know how the movie was going to end – even though it ended where it had to end.

And I'm STILL thinking about it. In fact, I'm starting to tear up again. Crap. I need a tissue. And then, back to work.


Ermengrabby said...

I watched "Aladdin" for the first time since seeing it in the theater. Beautiful animation all around, but I was also especially struck by Princess Jasmine's face. It is lovely, and lively, funny, and smart. You go, girls.

eamenes said...

Smart. Yes -- that's a good word for it.

I remember when the film came out, the Beauty and the Beast animators talked about how difficult Belle was to draw. She couldn't just be pretty -- she had to be beautiful, which also means smart and funny and all that other stuff that makes lips do odd things and foreheads wrinkle up and eyes squint and so on. They said the film could easily have turned into Strange Looking and the Beast, but that the work was worth it. I agree.