Tuesday, July 22, 2014

AFI Top 100: #99 "Toy Story"

Woody & Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story (1995)

As weekly movie nights continue at the Johnstone/Grande household, we were joined by a handful of friends for our second AFI Top 100 screening.  This week?  #99 Toy Story.  It was a bit of a relief to present something that wasn't such a time suck, and at 81 minutes, Toy Story offered one of the most delightful at-home movie viewing experiences I've had in years.  

This now infamous Pixar creation - and the first fully computer-animated, feature length motion picture - tells the story of a cowboy doll named Woody as he struggles to maintain his position as "top toy" in his owner, Andy's, bedroom.  This once unchallenged title is threatened when Andy receives spaceman action figure, Buzz Lightyear, for his birthday.  Woody attempts semi-graciously to reason with this new toy:  Hey buddy, I know you're new here, but, just so you know...  Only to discover that not only does Buzz not care, he doesn't even realize he's a toy!  A back-and-forth begins as Woody's jealousy and anger builds, and he begins to lose everything he once held dear.

We're all familiar with this story.  It was such a part of my childhood, and my friends', I don't remember a world where Tom Hanks wasn't Woody and Tim Allen wasn't Buzz Lightyear.  These characters are iconic.  No less so now than they were 20 years ago.  The script is finite brilliance, each beat perfectly timed and each line hitting its mark. Joss Whedon has subtle influence here, having written an early draft and punched up certain lines -- everyone in attendance Sunday night had a world of fun randomly shouting out "That - that right there - that was totally Joss," like we even had any idea.  But Whedonverse fans just know, don't we?

Toy Story has this strange impact on me, and during this viewing (easily my 20th), I tried to figure out what that impact stems from.  Nostalgia, certainly.  That idea that we all had our "Woody" or "Buzz" somewhere in our own bedrooms growing up (all my other toys were jelly of my P.J. Sparkles doll).  Beyond that, the movie is just really intelligent.  It expects us to be intelligent.  It's witty and quick and doesn't beat around the bush.  It's one of the things that makes it a perfect movie.  Characters that, by their definition, should be lifeless, are in fact multi-faceted and complicated.  Certainly full of faults.  Even our two (sometimes one) dimensional human characters are wondrous.  Not because we get to know them but because of how the toys feel about them. 

While looking for pictures to feature in this review, I ran across this image.  And I welled up in a teary-blob, followed by spontaneous giggling at my own foolishness.  My office-mate even asked to make sure I was okay.  I simply said, "Nothing wrong, I just looked at this."  He totally got it. 

That's what it does.  Disney's Pixar created something special and it can't be denied.  It may not be their most impressive venture, but it's certainly their most groundbreaking.

Who knows?  Maybe the magic of Toy Story wouldn't be as alive and well today had it not spawned two brilliant sequels -- and one of the most emotional and satisfying trilogy endings in movie history (no hyperbole).  But the original is where it all began, and I predict it will rise significantly on the AFI Top 100 list in subsequent editions.  

What do you guys think?  Do you think it deserves a bump?  Or are you over it (i.e. dead inside)?  Let me know your thoughts!

Rating:  ★★★★½ / 5 stars

[Watch the Trailer] | [Read More AFI Top 100 Reviews]

Check back next week for my review of Yankee Doodle Dandy at #98!

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