I was sad not to actually cry my eyes out to Toy Story 3. If I hadn’t read all the advanced publicity and, frankly, hype, about grown men being reduced to tears, I wouldn’t have gone in with that expectation, and would have been happy enough just to be entertained and, toward the end, choked up a bit. But I went into the Curzon and strapped on my 3D glasses with the certainty that I would cry all over the inside of them. And yet … I didn’t actually release tears from my willing tear ducts.
I like a good cry. To a film, obviously. I’d rather not be sad enough in my own life to have to cry. But when some actors act a sad thing, it can make me cry in a safe and purging kind of way. I expect it’s my age. But I don’t care. Surely ducts must be sluiced out every now and then to keep them clean? It’s how the body works. And some of those ducts are activated by the mind. I was once on a talking-head countdown programme – no, really, I was – called something like The Greatest Tear Jerkers Ever (I can’t be bothered to look it up on the IMDb), and I described the saddest thing I have ever seen on television, which is the bit where Rolf Harris comforts a quite hard looking man whose gorgeous dog is going to have to be put down by a vet on Animal Hospital. I welled up a bit while describing it. I would well up if I saw it again now, or indeed had to describe it in any detail. Rolf cried. The quite hard man held his back. I cried on his behalf. Actually, I’ve realised that seeing a man cry is more likely to make me cry than if I saw a woman cry.
Anyway, in Toy Story 3 – and this can surely require no SPOILER ALERT – Andy grows up and goes to college. This is what the story is about. He is too old to play with his toys any more, and that’s where the action springs from. Grown men have been crying at it – and grown women, but grown men are more likely to hold their tears in, like the quite hard man in the vet’s – because it speaks of the universal experience of time passing and the loss of childhood. This must be incredibly poignant, and painful, for parents who have either seen a child off to college or into the wider world, or have a child who is approaching that age. (I know my mum was very upset when I left for college in 1984, even though she had spent the entire year previous moaning about me and shouting at me.)
There is a bit near the end – a simple enough exchange – that tugs hard at your heartstrings. It tugged at mine. I felt a lump in my throat. But the cascade of hot tears never came, and frankly, I want my money back. I had sat in the bar of the Curzon before my screening, watching the patrons of all ages leaving, and I examined the eyes of all the adult males. To be honest, it was hard to see if they had been blubbing or not. Some of them looked red-eyed, but they had been looking through stupid 3D glasses for an hour and a half. Clearly, kids aren’t likely to cry at anything that hints at loss or sadness or the passage of time as they have yet to experience any. When I interviewed the creators of Up, they said that young audiences were not touched or moved by the death of an elderly character early on, or by the intimations of loss and regret, but by the bit where they think the bird is killed, or the dog is lost. I loved that insight.
By the way, Toy Story 3 is brilliant. Impeccable. Stunning. Funny. Sad. Thrilling. Inventive. Multilayered. It’s as good as the other two, and that’s a pretty amazing end to keep up. (Shrek, by contrast, goes up and down over its four installments.) But do not go in there with any preconceptions about the emotions it may or may not prick in you. It’s entirely possible to love it and still leave the auditorium with the only dry eyes in the house.