Movie Review - Toy Story

NOTE: This review was written under a previous rating system. Some of the older reviews may express opinions and judgment calls that are not in line with our current standards.
John Lasseter
Walt Disney Productions, Pixar Animation Studies

You know how it is. Sometimes, when it’s been a while since you saw a movie, your memories are maybe a little rose-colored. I think we’ve probably all learned by now that hindsight isn’t 20/20 after all, but in the context of movie reviews, we might be so busy wondering whether we remembered all of the language or violence or worldview problems, or whatever, that we fail to wonder whether or not the movie was really as good as we remembered it.

In the case of Toy Story, there would be the tendency to forget that Pixar Studios has progressed since their first feature-length film, and therefore probably a tendency to expect the human characters to move like humans, which they do—at high speeds. They can run and leap about, but they don’t stroll very well yet, in ‘95. Some of the textures are a little plasticky, and the dog is highly unconvincing. I didn’t care for the songs sprinkled throughout, but that is a matter of taste. Mostly, it was a lot of little things that ruined the movie for me, and, mostly, it was a lot of little flaws in morality that made Toy Story feel so aesthetically underprivileged.

I have decided that tally marks are very useful. This was a G movie, so hard-core swearing wasn’t a problem, but the amount of euphemistic slang and derogatory language would have been a lot to keep up with, without tally marks. Idiot: five times. Stupid: five times. Shut up: three times. That means ten entire words I didn’t have to write down. As it was, Toy Story ended up being an illustration of diversity, and tally marks can’t help with that. “Heck”, “blast”, “gosh”, “gee”, “loony”, “bozo”, “dirt bag”, and “son of a building block” are some examples, and one character hints that minced oaths wouldn’t be strong enough for the circumstances. Equally bothersome, to me, was the incredible amount of sarcasm and mockery that goes un-frowned-upon right through the very end of the movie.

Sexual Content:
The sexual content includes various remarks about dating and how “dolls really go for” certain toys. One of the female toys is flirtatious, another wears nothing but a two-piece swimsuit, and another is comprised of mismatched pieces of other toys, including Barbie’s bare legs. Mistletoe is featured at the end and several lipstick marks appear on a toy’s face in consequence. Small children are likely to repeat phrases like “I found my moving buddy!” because of the significant tone of voice they heard in the movie, without realizing that the quote indicates something other than a sisterly attraction.

Violent Content:
Those who have seen the movie may be expecting me to start focusing under this heading on the character of the neighbor boy, Sid, and the delight he evinces in destroying toys; but if that is what they expect, they probably haven’t read many of my other reviews. No, explosives and “brain transplants” aren’t my main concern. When the toy dinosaur inadvertently knocks himself out—and the audience laughs—that’s my main concern. Most of the comical pain pertains to the main character, and while some of it may fit Proverbs 26:27 ideas of providential retribution, and therefore drift more toward an “He had it coming to him” humor, some of it is just capitalizing on fallen humanity’s inclination to take pleasure in someone else’s pain.

Shoving, fighting and making casual threats—all over petty personal quarrels—are, like the incidents of comical pain, re-categorized by their context in the movie to fit into the audience’s comedy section, rather than in Violent Content, where we would put them automatically, if the characters hadn’t been made of plastic.

Before we get too far into this category, we all have to have something understood. Toys do not have feelings. Even if they did, they would not have eternal souls. I myself am not necessarily offended by stories that take liberties with reality, but we at least ought to be aware of the implications of those liberties. As it is, the understanding we have of the movie leads us to assume that rational, moral creatures (the toys) neither go to heaven nor hell when they are destroyed, but enter into nothingness. Passively accepting this concept of annihilation for spiritually sensitive toys could possibly lead us to not really think about subtle messages of annihilation for human souls in other movies. Woody evidently knows enough about religious topics to reflexively (and not very sincerely) fold his hands and give a brief glance heavenward under certain circumstances. Another toy’s hopeful remark that “Nirvana is coming” shows an implausible alternative to complete annihilation, and, if left unaddressed, could possibly lead children to not really think about subtle messages about false religions in other movies.
Many families have a problem with Magic 8-Ball toys. Most families have a problem with the idea of cheating at games. If we laugh when someone else stoops to it, however, maybe we don’t have as much of a problem with it as we ought.

Perhaps families should be offended by the fact that Sid’s father is only shown snoring in a recliner in front of the television, and that Andy’s father, if he has one, is not so much as mentioned.

I don’t know what other families may think about sighing, rolling of the eyes and repetitive begging, when they are displayed by children toward their parents—that is, by Andy toward his mother. I know that, for myself, inappropriate behavior like that is one thing (a serious thing, too) in a child, and another thing altogether in an “adult”. Unresolved immaturity in the principal characters (even when those characters are toys) is a bit like nails on a chalkboard for me. Playground-level name calling (see Language, above), panic, bickering, vanity, rivalry—I don’t care for them, myself, and they happen to run through the entire movie, from start to finish.

It’s the childishness of the main characters that brings Toy Story down to a Not Worth Watching Again; that, and the awkward and at times inappropriate merging of “kids’ movie” with “grown-ups’ movie” to try to come up with a “family movie”. It used to be, I think, that children either understood what was going on in a movie, or they didn’t watch it because they were too young, and that adults could be interested and amused by the same things that appealed to their children. Of course, comical pain appeals to people of all ages, but the sarcasm, the mild sexual innuendos, the language, the scene where Mr. Potato Head mocks another toy’s loyalty by taking his own lips off and tapping them against his… well, there are a lot of things that children simply aren’t going to “get” in Toy Story, and some of them are things we wouldn’t want to have to explain, if they asked.

If you tell me that Toy Story is your favorite movie in the world, I’m not going to try to stop you from watching it again. I’ll point you to my review and ask why in the world Toy Story is your favorite movie, and suggest that it is at least inappropriate for children under the age of ten. If you read through those content lists of mine and still decide to let your ten-and-up children watch Toy Story, I would also suggest that you stick around and watch it with them, in case they want some things explained.

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