There is no doubt that over the next few weeks of the summer holidays one of the most frequently visited places will be the local cinema.
Whether it’s Bath’s excellent multi-screen Odeon or my favourite movie house in the world –The Little Theatre – countless parents will be taking their offspring along in the hope of two or three hours of peace as their children remain engrossed and out of mischief.
In the past, I suspect many parents were happy to take their youngsters to what were called ‘children’s films’ so they could have a quiet snooze, safe in the knowledge that their young charges were being royally entertained. Now, however, there is less of a distinction between a children’s film and an adults’ one and as a perfect example of this genre I give you the latest Toy Story film, Toy Story 3.
The whole Toy Story trilogy – the Shrek films are very similar – has helped created a whole new style of film which is aimed (on the surface) at the younger market but which contains so much material and clever writing that an adult can be fooled into believing this film is almost exclusively for them.
On Sunday we, that is two grown adults with no children present, settled down to watch Toy Story without any fear that someone would point to us and say “you’re too old to be in here!”. We did, obviously sit quite close to children so we could pretend we were related if challenged, but the reality is we didn’t need to because I would estimate that half the audience could be classified as adults without families. I saw many couples of different ages and even a group of teenage goths piling in eagerly awaiting to see Woody and Buzz in action.
A kids’ film? Nah . . .
It is, of course, all an example of brilliant marketing – after all, if you can write a film that a six-year-old and a 60-year-old can laugh along with at the same time then you have struck box office gold. Different generations have always enjoyed films together but what makes the Toy Story/Shrek concept different is that the writers have skilfully engineered the scripts so sometimes you are laughing at different lines to your offspring or there are double entendres which means you’re both laughing at the same time – but at different things. (As an example, does anybody else who has seen Toy Story 3 agree with me that Ken isn’t quite, ahem, Barbie’s ‘type’!)
I think what these films show is that, above all, it is great writing that makes a great film and there is something particularly impressive about people who can write a script that has such universal appeal that a wide-eyed four-year-old can be grinning next to a black-clad emo and both of them feel entirely comfortable with what they’re watching.
Incidentally, I saw Toy Story in its 3D form and even this made all of us of different ages feel united in a shared experience. With 3D you all look that little bit silly anyway which puts you in the perfect mood as you prepare to go on a glorious journey to infinity and beyond . . .