Dear Motion Picture Association of America:
I’m freshly back from the theater after seeing Toy Story 3. One question: A G-rating? What were you thinking? I haven’t been this disturbed since the Turkish prison scenes in Midnight Express.
The first two Toy Story movies centered on the happy relationship between a young boy named Andy and his toys. In Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, Andy is packing for college, and the story leaves the toys to fend for themselves in a world where there’s no one to care for them.
It’s not that the movie was mis-rated. No sex. No violence. It is a kid’s movie.
Orrrrr…. is it?
Because here’s what happens: Abandoned by a grown-up Andy, the desperate, panicked toys have to not only find a new home, but also a way to recapture their raison d’etre… The simple joy and richness of being loved best by a child.
The unspoken premise is this: Nothing lasts forever, and in the end you’re either the deserted or the one deserting. But because this is a kid’s movie, Pixar tosses us a bone: Don’t fret too much; you’ll eventually find someone else who is almost as good as the original. But it’ll be hell – pure. freaking. hell! — getting there.
Motion Picture Association, you could have warned me about Toy Story 3.
Toy Story 3 is tragically under-rated. Now a whole audience of Americans will suddenly be caught off guard for that scene when Woody, Buzz, Ham, and the rest of the toys — trapped on a garbage incinerator’s conveyor belt — hold hands in heartbreaking resignation as they brave a certain fiery death, and in that moment you forget that they are not just toys but cartoon toys, and you bawl like a baby at the desperate humanity laid bare on their digital faces.
And that was just one scene of several.
The scene where Woody leaves for college….? The mix of wisdom and acceptance that flickers across the faces of the toys as they watch him drive off down the road, which signals a silent acknowledgment about the nothing-lasts-forever bit? It will DESTROY you.
I’ve admittedly been in a melancholy mood lately…
So maybe it’s just me. But I don’t think so.
As the credits rolled, only a few people (robots?) jumped up and made their way immediately to the exit, instead of taking what the rest of us needed: a sensible few minutes to pat our faces dry and collect ourselves before shuffling out.
As we left the theater, my daughter — who sprouts hives when she’s really upset — could manage to only scratch broodingly and shake her head no at me when I asked her what she thought.
My son said simply, “Why did we have to see that?” in a ponderous tone. He sunk into silence for the rest of the car ride home, no doubt remembering his previously carefree existence. And by “previously” I mean like 2 hours before, when the frailty of life wasn’t quite so palpable.
When my daughter was younger, she’d self-police her entertainment options. A grade school friend would call and invite her to a matinee, and she’d something like sorry. But that movie has mild thematic elements. How about we see this instead…?
She’d picked that up from reading the cautionary footnotes your association uses to elucidate and rate a film’s content suitability for certain audiences. Like: “May be too intense for younger audiences” or “Contains mild thematic elements not appropriate for younger viewers.”
So I’m thinking that some films could carry similar cautionary footnotes to a prescribed rating, because we all could have used an elucidating footnote prior to the movie today.
On Toy Story 3, for example, you might consider: “Caution: Contains mild thematic elements not appropriate for older viewers.”
Or: “May be too intense: The sensitive and overwrought strongly cautioned.”
Or perhaps: “Attention parents of graduating seniors: You might want to skip this one and go straight to dinner instead.”
Pixar is long overdue for this kind of action.
The last animated film that similarly unhinged me was also a Pixar flick; specifically, the “Married Life” montage from Up.
Haven’t seen it? Let me summarize: Two adorable kids marry with dreams of a life together. Things don’t work out exactly the way they envisioned. They’re mostly happy anyway. Until one of them ends up bereft and alone.
Which leads to the inevitable question: Is that a cartoon – or is that life?
Thanks for your consideration,