a theatre, film & pop culture review
This may be the easiest category of the evening. There is no way in hell anything but the critically acclaimed smash hit of the summer, Toy Story 3, is going to win. How to Train Your Dragon has many endearing moments, most of which involve the feline-like dragon, aka Toothless, learning to trust and love his mini-viking protector, Hiccup. Dreamkworks’s animation of the human characters is actually superior to Pixar’s (to my inexpert eyes), but unfortunately while the film is cute, it’s not superlative in any way (whether in story, score, or general artistry/technique). Thankfully instead of the lackluster Tangled, or the not-nearly-as-funny-as-everyone-says Despicable Me, our third nominee is the art film disguised as an animated feature, The Illusionist. Ceaselessly charming and sans dialogue, our title character is an older, out-of-work magician who travels to Scotland where he meets a young woman who changes his life, and he, hers forever. Hand-drawn with colored pencils, the film is overflowing with beautifully landscaped pictures reminiscent of early Disney animated features (think of 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone), but it is decidedly too low-key and sophisticated to triumph at the end of the night.
To win, you need to be buoyant and heartbreaking and full of humor and fast-paced fun, not to mention expertly-crafted by the world’s top animators. And so it would seem Toy Story 3 fits the winning bill. And while the animation is still shimmering and superlative and startling in its superiority to all other animated films, the third installment of the beloved series sadly disappointed me. I was one of the few adults not shedding tears in the theater, nor was I laughing nearly as much as I did in the previous two films. Yes, it’s full of warmth and character and good, sentimental intentions, and so yes, it will win. But it’s not nearly as emotionally startling as the first 10 minutes of Up, nor is it as heartbreaking as the “She Loved Me” sequence in Toy Story 2. Buzz and Woody’s denouement simply fizzled out for me. (Un)fortunately, Pixar’s previous brilliance had taught me to raise my expectations to impossible levels, and I simply wanted something more for my favorite toys.