Toy Story 3 (2010)
★★★★ / ★★★★
Eleven years after the fantastic adventure that was “Toy Story 2,” Pixar returns with “Toy Story 3” in which Andy (voiced by John Morris) was about to head to college and had to decide what to do with his toys: put them in the attic, throw them in the trash, donate them or take them to college with him. After a series of misunderstandings, Woody (Tom Hanks) and the rest of the gang–Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris, respectively), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Slinky Dog (Blake Clark)–arrived in a day care center in which the toys were led by a deceptively nice teddy bear who smelled like strawberries named Lotso (Ned Beatty). Andy’s toys had to then map out their escape from the day care center and back to Andy’s home.
Despite my highest expectations, “Toy Story 3” impressed me with its creativity, intelligence, heart and bona fide sense of humor. Even though our protagonists were inanimate objects, we couldn’t help but empathize with them because, like human beings, they feared being abandoned by someone who loved them and losing their purpose. That fear manifested in often hilarious ways reflected by the distinct personalities of Andy’s eccentric but lovable toys. The flashback scenes were effective because the first two “Toy Story” films were so embedded in pop culture and in our minds that it was very difficult to cut the bond between Andy and his toys. Although there were many scenes that moved me (especially toward the end when the gang accepted their fate and Andy’s final decision about what he was going to do with his toys), the one that almost moved me to tears was when Woody desperately tried to convince his friends that they should return to Andy’s home because them ending up in the day care center was all a big misunderstanding. That particular scene got it exactly right because the loyalty that Woody had for Andy was one of the main reasons why we fell in love with the franchise in the first place. Even though fifteen years had passed since the first installment, it was nice that Pixar and its writers did not lose track of the essence of friendship, its heart, despite having better means of animation due to recent advances technology at their disposal. Ultimately, the “Toy Story” franchise was consistent in comparison to other animated film series like the “Shrek” movies because the characters often had a clear and unified goal, the jokes were bound in its own universe, the script didn’t try too hard to be amusing and it proudly wore its heart on its sleeves.
For those who haven’t seen “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2,” I believe they can still enjoy the movie because there were enough new characters to keep everything fresh. I loved the “relationship” between Barbie (Jodi Benson) and Ken (Michael Keaton) and its implications about the latter character. Another character that stood out to me was Chatter Telephone (Teddy Newton) because he talked like those detectives in the 1940s noir pictures. Extra details like him appearing in the shadows and the timing in which he was introduced was icing on the cake for me. Lastly, with the way the story ended, there was a consensus between my friends that “Toy Story 3” was sad. I disagree; the events that transpired throughout the picture celebrated the idea of renewal, growth and unconditional acceptance. It was a poignant feeling–it made me think about my childhood when my biggest problem was my toys running out of batteries, my remaining days at home before leaving for college, and my friends who have been with me despite the challenges that tested our bonds (and our tempers). Just like the epic adventures of the first “Toy Story” films, “Toy Story 3” effortlessly delivered tension, laughter, tears and warmth. If Pixar decides to make “Toy Story 4,” I’m willing to wait another ten years as long as the quality remains strong, which I’m sure will be the case.
Peter Pan (1953)
★★ / ★★★★
Peter Pan (voiced by Bobby Driscoll) is not one of my favorite Disney characters and “Peter Pan” is not one of my favorite movies by Disney. I’ve seen a lot of versions of the popular story about a boy who never grew up (animation and live action) but this one just didn’t get to me as much as the other Disney classics. I thought the story didn’t go anywhere because it failed to identify one driving force to move it forward. Also, the characters weren’t that memorable because they did not get to do much other than fly around and pretend to be pirates or Native Americans. And seeing this film for the first time as an adult, I thought some parts were offensive despite it being released in 1953. Even though children wouldn’t necessarily catch the offenses, such things get embedded in their psyches and maybe lead them to believe that racism is acceptable. I did like the three children such as Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), the sister who tells her brothers John (Paul Collins) and Michael (Tommy Luske) many stories about Never Land. The innocence that was highlighted in the first few scenes was quite spot-on. It was fun to see them interact because Wendy was more of a mother figure to them than a sister. Too bad it all went downhill right when they arrived in Never Land. We get introduced to all sorts of colorful characters but none of them had gravity. Unfortunately, I thought the characters from the fantasy land were downright unlikeable such as the overly envious Tinker Bell and the villanous Captain Hook (Hans Conried). (Although I did like the ticking crocodile.) Those characters were portrayed so one-dimensionally to the point where I lost interest after five minutes of spending time with them. It’s strange because other Disney films that were released prior to 1953 had some sort of insight and sensitivity but this one did not have it. However, I didn’t particularly hate it because I’m aware of the fact that Disney likes to simplify things for the younger audiences. This is not the kind of movie that I would want to show to my children despite the colors and the energy because I believed it crossed some lines which involved racism and sexism. Most parents should be more aware of what they choose for their children to watch because it might affect their children’s thinking in the long run.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★
This third installment of the “Ice Age” series, directed by Carlos Saldanha, is one of the more visually impressive of the three even though story-wise, it’s not as strong as its predecessors. While Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) prepare for the arrival of their baby, Diego (Denis Leary) decides to leave and pursue his own adventures. Sid (John Leguizamo) begins to feel lonely because he feels like he doesn’t have a family so he steals three T-Rex eggs from underneath the ice in order to feel like a mother. Meanwhile, the mother T-Rex returns and finds her babies missing so she hunts for the perpetrator. A series of funny things and loads of adventures ensue as the group of friends discover an underground habitat full of dangerous plants and even more menacing dinosaurs. I always look forward to each “Ice Age” movie because of the very amusing one-liners and the way it applies human characteristics to its animal characters. In this film, it focuses on parenting but the jokes are easy to understand so the little kids would not feel left out. There were more than a handful of highlights in the picture including the three baby T-Rex as they follow Sid around because they think he’s their mommy, the venus flytrap-like plant sticky situation and the battle in the air using some of the flying dinosaurs. While they may be interesting to look at, I enjoyed the fact that there were still jokes being thrown at the audiences while all the action was happening so it didn’t at all feel mindless or pointless. A new character was introduced, a weasel with an eye-patch and a British accent voiced by Simon Pegg. He really increased the manic factor of the film which was a good move because when he arrived on screen, all the other characters didn’t feel as energetic. The only problem I had with the movie is that it didn’t really have defining storyline as it did in the first installment. Like the second, this one is more about the fun and the adventures rather than dealing with real emotions. Still, I consider this a good movie for kids because it’s fast-paced, there’s a plethora of colors and attractive images. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I see Sid being his silly self and the infamous Scrat as he tries to (desperately) obtain an acorn from another rock rat. “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” may not be deep, but it’s satisfying enough.