Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Pixar: For Your Consideration

One of my (many) good friends from the world of board gaming, Eric Burgess, took it upon himself to rank all of the Pixar films. We agree in a number of places... but disagree in others... and so I found myself wanting to create my own rankings.

You'll notice a theme... I cry A LOT watching Pixar movies. Generally, it's not the old school Disney cry (the ending of Old Yeller or Bambi's mother, for example) - these are because the folks at Pixar know how to tap into real emotion. (In typing up these mini-reviews, I found myself tearing up just remembering the scenes from the films... good grief.)

  1. The Incredibles - Riffing on superhero tropes, James Bond films, comic books, and action movie conventions, the folks at Pixar managed to invest the characters at the center of the story with both superpowers and depth. Funny, moving, full of surprises and pitch-perfect voice acting. 
  2. Toy Story 2 - This gets to go ahead of the amazing Toy Story on the way it built on what came before without cheapening any of it... and being the first (of many) Pixar films to leave me in a puddle of tears during Jessie's flashback montage.
  3. Toy Story - I distinctly remember being in the theater watching Toy Story... and the fact that is was ground-breaking computer animation completely dropping away 10-15 minutes into the film as I fell completely in love with the story and the humor.
  4. Up - Another gaming friend (Jeff Myers) used to say that he couldn't love a movie that made him cry in the first 10 minutes... this is the movie he was talking about. However, without those brilliant and deeply bittersweet first ten minutes, Mr. Fredricksen is just a cranky old man. (And the movie ends with more tears from me when Russell gets the grape soda pin.)
  5. Inside Out - This wonderful film made me laugh out loud... and weep quietly. I don't know how those of you who are parents of pre-teen girls survived this in one piece. (I know that the trauma of our leaving ministry and uprooting the boys definitely played into my reaction to the film.)
  6. Ratatouille - That a movie about rats and gourmet food works at all is a miracle... let alone one that comments so eloquently on the nature of friendship, the role of a critic, and the process of creativity. Plus, it's funny in the right places and amounts.
  7. Wall-E - Both Wall-E and Cars run a little long and a little slow... but both of them use that time to develop a rhythm and build up the characters so that you care about what's happening. Wall-E gets extra points for the overwhelming opening section and the delightful use of numbers from my one of my favorite movie musicals, "Hello, Dolly".
  8. Toy Story 3 - The plot here is tremendous - The Great Escape as re-imagined by Pixar. And then the last 20 minutes tear me up every time - the incinerator followed by Andy & Bonnie. 
  9. Cars - I like this a lot better than some folks... I think a childhood filled with trips along Route 66 (or what's left of it) makes this film a nostalgic road trip for me. Plus, I think they nailed the ending. (Yes, it's a little too long - see my comments about Wall-E above.)
  10. Toy Story 4 - They went to the well one more time... and made it work - mostly. (There's one character transition/decision that bothers me.) Revitalized Bo Peep is wonderful... and who can't love Duke Kaboom and/or the Combat Carl team?
  11. Monsters, Inc. - The animation innovations were pretty impressive... but the characters and their relationships were even more so. Another excellent bit of voice casting with Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
  12. Coco - An almost perfect blend of the fantastical and the heartfelt... and the music works perfectly. I can find some things to nitpick, but they don't detract from how much I enjoyed this film... or cried near the end. 
  13. Finding Nemo - The boys were a little young for this one when it first came out... the opening scared them silly. It's a great film... but I don't connect with it as strongly as some of the other Pixar films. (Dory's parenting advice is golden, though.)
  14. Cars 3 - After the mess that was Cars 2, I had real questions about yet another sequel. But Cars 3 isn't a typical sequel - nor is the message at the heart of it a typical "cartoon" moral. This is a movie about aging, wisdom, mentoring, and lasting friendship. And demolition derby.
  15. A Bug’s Life - Pixar's riff on The Seven Samuari/The Magnificent Seven... so much better than Antz (which came out in the same year). Hopper is a particularly effective villain.
  16. Brave - this has some weak moments, but I love that Pixar attempted something this big and bold.
    Note: You have reached the "you no longer need to watch these movies" line. Everything above this point is worth your time. Movies below this point are, for the most part, better than the majority of major studio animated films released but are not up to the quality level of the films above the line.
  17. Finding Dory - Dory was one of the highlights of the original film... but she works better as seasoning rather than the main dish. The otters were funny, though.
  18. The Incredibles 2 - I love parts of this movie... the raccoon sequence is brilliant, as are a couple of the action sequences with Elasti-Girl - but the film overall doesn't quite hold together. I don't hate it - but I haven't gone out of my way to watch it again (except the raccoon).
  19. Monsters University - Some really nice action sequences late in the film aren't enough to carry the weight of what feels like a "direct to DVD" sequel. 
  20. Cars 2 - Sadly, the fantastic visuals are paired with a so-so story that requires the characters to act out of character and/or like idiots. This is not the first Hollywood film to do this... but it's sad to see Pixar go there. OTOH, it does have one of my favorite Cars visual jokes - the Pope car in a Popemobile. 

I have not (yet) seen Onward... I'm planning to do that this week since it is now available on Disney+.

I refuse, based on the overwhelming feedback of friends, reviewers, and my children, to watch The Good Dinosaur. I'm just going to pretend it doesn't exist.


Daniel Brown said...

I do enjoy a good Pixar movie. Oddly, I remember not liking Toy Story when I first saw it but I loved the animated short at the start of the movie. Here is my list. I don't have a good memory for movies so take this list with a grain of salt.

Up - I cried
Monsters, Inc. - Where Pixar took the graphics to the next level
The Incredibles - Super hero movie the way it should be (IMHO)
Toy Story 2 - Made me a Toy Story fan
Cars - I am a man who was a boy and as a boy I love cars.
WALL-E - Love the social commentary in this one.
Incredibles 2 - More super heroes
Finding Nemo - A great adventure
A Bug's Life - Not great but good
Ratatouille - I enjoyed watching this with my wife.

Joe Huber said...

Mark, you definitely should watch Onward. I think you'll like it quite a bit.

We're in agreement on Cars, and few others, but in violent disagreement on Cars 2 (I don't like it as much as the original, but I like it _much_ better than Cars 3 - the spy theme works for me), Up (which I appreciate, but don't enjoy nearly as much as you), and the Toy Story sequels (I rank all of them below Cars 2, for instance). Oh, and Coco, which is my second favorite of all of the Pixar movies.

Jeff Myers said...

We watched Onward last weekend and enjoyed it. I do remember saying that about Up, which is a wonderful movie. That opening didn't just pull on my heart strings, it yanked my heart out of my chest and left me a total mess for so long that I had a hard time enjoying the rest of the film. I think for most audience members it was just really sad, but because of some family and personal issues, it hit me hard.

Thanks for reminding me of all of these great movies. I still haven't seen Monsters University, Cars 3, Finding Dory or the Good Dinosaur.

Mr. Massey said...

Thanks for sharing Mark! Haven't seen Onward yet, but have seen the rest. Wall-E, Toy Story, Up, and Inside Out top my list. The raccoon seen in The Incredibles 2 is one of the most entertain action/comedy sequences ever. And I just don't understand the love for Cars in any incarnation.