Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not A Dry Eye In The House


At least I’d been warned.

In New York hardened critics had sobbed uncontrollably; 50-year-olds kept their 3D glasses on in the street for fear of revealing red-rimmed evidence; meanwhile, their bemused children were wondering what all the fuss was about. Such, apparently, is the power of Toy Story 3 to make grown men cry.


So, fearing that this film might present my masculinity with a bit of a challenge, I came armed with a healthy dose of sarcasm. It’s worked in the past. I watched Titanic at a celebrity preview. At the climax (he dies), the entire audience laughed and cheered with relief that such a clunky, preposterous movie was finally ending.

In the 1970s I went with fellow students to see Love Story. At its climax (she dies), a single middle-aged woman about ten rows in front of us started to bawl hysterically. Her cries of distress prompted fits of giggles, which soon turned to guffaws around the theatre.

So on Saturday night I reckoned that, with a little cynicism, I could probably cope with some schmaltz about a few plastic toys. No soppy film could turn me to a blubbering wreck. Well, apart from Finding Nemo, Dr Zhivago, The Sound of Music, It’s A Wonderful Life and pretty much any movie with someone being reunited or separated in the final scene. Just in case, I popped a clean white handkerchief into my pocket. I told Jo it was for her.

It’s the last in the Toy Story trilogy (I guess it didn’t start out as a trilogy, but Hollywood does likes to cash in on a good thing). Andy, the little boy whose toys come to life when he’s not looking, has grown up and is off to college. He’s clearing out his bedroom to make way for his younger sister, and must decide what to do with the toys. Will they be taken with him, stored in the attic, donated to a day care centre, or dumped in the bin?

I’m not going to give the game away, but I guarantee that no man with children (let alone 5, of whom most have left home and one is only just discovering the joy of toys) will leave dry-eyed. I wept into my bucket of popcorn and had to sit right through the credits to calm down.

So what makes it strike such a chord? Most children in the cinema appeared to enjoy it, but none seemed overly upset as Andy goes off into the sunset.

Critics have suggested that it stirs memories of lost toys and leaving home, nostalgia for happier times past. Not in my case: I was quite chirpy about leaving for university, and dumped my toys at the jumble sale when I was 12.

No, I reckon it’s about the transient nature of life and how parents must feel about the inevitable departure of their own children. At 18 months, Izzy has already passed a major milestone on her road to independence. She now says things like “cat”, “dog”, “down” and “Daddy” and has lengthy private conversations of great intensity (although in complete gobbledygook) with her dolls. Almost overnight, she has become a tiny person, living in her own fantasy world, not ours.

We’ve only recently noticed the passing of her baby phase, now lost to us forever. “She’ll be leaving us soon”, said a red-eyed Jo, as we recovered from the movie with a bottle of strong wine. “At least the bank manager will be relieved”, I said. Jo threw me a dark look.

The fact is, in our child’s eyes we’re the toys, and, much as we love playing with her, sometime soon we’re going to have to give her up to the real world outside. And, as Woody and his toy friends found out, that’s possibly the saddest feeling any parent can have.

1 comment:

Irritatingly Optimistic said...

Hello, I popped over from Clippy Mat's blog, hope you don't mind.

I sat through the film a couple of days ago, and strangely found I got something in my eye towards the end causing it to water a little.

My eldest son who is 17 said it's so sad because he felt like they were his toys too, having grown up during the trilogy. He had an original Woody that he took everywhere with him, despite it being rather aromatic and filthy.

Nice post, off to read more now...