Today was the big day: The Boy's first ever visit to a movie theater! He loved it, the whole thing, including the movie. Very mild plot spoilers here: basically, the stuff from the preview.
We arrived at 10:05, thinking that it was a 10:30 show. It wasn't; it was a 10:45 show. Sigh. We showed The Boy around the building, and he was entranced with the arcade machines. He ran from machine to machine, using the joysticks and pressing the buttons, climbing up inside the racing machines to turn the wheels and the gear shifts. We even played a little air hockey, which he seemed to sort-of remember from The Valerie Center. At 10:35, we went to the concessions and bought some popcorn and The Boy's choice of candy: Skittles.
We sat down in the theater just in time for the previews to start. He seemed to enjoy the previews, although - truth be told - he enjoyed the candy and popcorn more. Then, the movie started. He was very, very good through the movie. He alternated between his own seat, my lap, and Mommy's lap throughout the show, even choosing to spend some time standing up. He watched the whole thing, which is good, and seemed to enjoy the whole movie.
The movie itself was interesting. Set ten years in the future (because it IS 10 years after Toy Story 2 came out), Andy's getting ready to go to college, and the gang is reconciling itself to a life in the attic. There's only a few left: Woody, Buzz, Jesse, Bullseye, Hamm, Rex, Slinky Dog, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, and the three little aliens. The toys almost get thrown out before getting accidentally given to Sunnytime Day Care, where a dark secret awaits. Happy endings for everyone except the big bad guys await.
The movie was very dark at times in the middle, exploring topics of abandonment and the inevitability of growing up and being left behind. As a parent, I can see my sons growing before my eyes; even though college is still 16 years or so away, I can understand what it must be like to watch your baby leave your house and your protection. I know that it's only a matter of time before The Boy develops his own interests and friends outside of the family, and I know it's only a matter of time before The Boy chooses to spend the overwhelming majority of his time away from his parents.
The overall message that Woody sends to his friends is: "Our job is to be there for Andy, no matter how long we have to wait." That's a sophisticated message for young people to understand, because that's our job as parents. We're there for our kids on a 24/7 basis when they're young; as they grow older, that 100% of time descends to a much smaller number. That's our job as parents: be there for our children, with hugs and kisses and snuggles and discipline and books and such, until you've taught them enough to survive on their own, then wait for the next time they need you - if ever. If not, enjoy the view of their independent flight.
Tough message for The Boy to understand, no?
The other main message from the movie, that I hope he DOES understand: your friends, your family, is the most important thing. You can face anything at all, as long as you stick together and do your thing. It's important to fight for your family, even if you have fight your family - the conflict with Buzz Lightyear that ends up in the gang turning on his Spanish mode proves that. You never leave your friends behind, and you stick with them until the end, even if you have to sacrifice for that end.
I know how important that was. We had things reasonably well under control in The Boy's treatment until our families started to disintegrate. Then, quickly, things spiraled out of control and resulted in our hurried, emergency relocation out here in Pittsburgh. I know that it's more complex than that, and it likely would have happened anyway, but that's a big part of it. Because our families broke apart in conflict, we suffered mightily. The message of the movie stands tall in our lives.
I was also interested in how forgiving Woody was as a character. He tried his best to help and to save the big bad guy, and gave the big bad guy his chance at redemption. That's important, too; the message is, Woody never gives up on you, no matter what.
And, of course, never go adventuring without your hat.
The movie was definitely appropriate for the little folks as well as the big ones. I know that I cried a couple of times during the movie, as the underlying parental themes hit very close to home. There were many laugh-out-loud moments, also, and lots of silliness and lots of funny one-liners from the characters.
The opening sequence, also, was classic. Highly recommended, and a solid 7.5 out of ten.