Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Toy Story Phenomenon

Look at the box office snapshot of June 27, 2010. Seven of the top ten movies blatantly exploit the innocence of youth, and obviously to great effect. Why, then do studios keep trying to tell us we should crave something else? I'm sick of critics pretending they're shocked when period pieces, dramas, or romantic thrillers fail. These are AUTUMN MOVIES, people. Haven't you realized that by now?

It's summer and my mind wants to go on vacation. I want sun and fun, beaches and Fantasyland. No stuffy wood-paneled rooms, cubicles, or desolate ghost towns. I want Katy Perry singing about "California Gurls" and Buzz Lightyear, the enduring staple of youth, comforting me with shouts of, "To infinity... and BEYOND!"

Seven of the top ten movies this week are staples of our youth, and if not our youth, then that of our children: innocent, enduring, and secure. "Toy Story 3," "The Karate Kid," "The A-Team," and "Shrek Forever After" are remakes, variations on a time-tested theme that has proven successful; while, "Get Him to the Greek," "Grown Ups," and "The Prince of Persia" capitalize on the rituals of male adventure, bonding, and virilty.

These are unsure times. We have enough to worry about, with terrorism, nuclear threats, increased surveillance, and impending economic collapse an everyday reality. We need fantasy and escape, comfort and security. We need to feel safe again, like we did in our youth.

Impending doom has always dogged us, the everpresent shadow ready to snatch us up at any given moment, but when we were kids, we didn't care. We were bound and determined to experience life, to imbibe of as much as we could before we ran out. Money, alcohol, drugs, and sex: the fleeting summers bonding with friends; memories you carry with you throughout your life, and that placate you as you grow older.

Security. Cartoon characters that never get old, heroes that never die. Sequels represent summer and are expected by audiences the same way they expect catchy pop songs and risque clothing. These staples are even more in demand today, because times are indeed bleak. So why don't the studios save some money, forego the pretense, and just give us what we want?

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