Ranking Pixar Movies

PixarlogoIt’s the moment you all have been waiting for.  I have finished reviewing the Pixar movies so that means it is time for me to rank them in order of less great to greatest.  I was hesitant to review the Pixar movies at the beginning because I love them all that I didn’t know if they would be good reading but I hope you guys have enjoyed my efforts.

Ranking is tough because honestly I have my #1 and then about a 8 car pile-up for 2nd place.  They are all so different and appeal to me in different ways.

That said, here goes!

15. Brave– I enjoy it but doesn’t deliver the movie it promises in the strong introduction.

brave2014. Cars 2– Both Cars movies are pretty close for me.  I like the energy in 2 and think the spy elements are creative.

cars2-313. Cars– A little slower than I remembered this time around.  Still a nice message about Main Street USA and lovely animation.

cars12. A Bug’s Life– A sweet little movie with a predictable story but I like the characters and it is well written.

bugs life211.  Monsters University– I love the message of Mike finding out his true calling is not his dream.  It makes Mike into one of Pixar’s most complex character.

mu210.  Monsters Inc- A delightful film with great chemistry between Sulley and Mike.  Creative world building with Monstropolis.

monsters inc29. Toy Story 2– A fun action adventure comedy for Woody, Buzz and the gang.  We get real heart with Jesse and her song.  Plus Woody must decide what he wants out of his life.

toy story2-48. Toy Story 3- Pixar’s take on a prison escape movie is full of drama and keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Humor from Barbie and Ken and a pitch perfect ending.

7. Ratatouille- A movie that makes me smile from beginning to end.  I love Remy and his desire to cook French food.  It is funny, sweet and lovely.  Paris never looked better.

ratatouille-paris-pixar-dvdbash6. Finding Nemo- Great adventure as we follow 2 storylines with Marlin looking for Nemo and Nemo in the aquarium.  Nearly every joke works and a real heart to boot.

finding nemo55. Wall-e– Starts out as a silent film following the life of a little robot left on earth.  Then we move to space and Wall-e and Eve help the humans realize their potential and get back to where they belong.  A movie that grows stronger each time I watch it.  Emotional, sweet, beautiful and bold.

walle and eva4. Incredibles– The best superhero movie.  A great film about marriage and work.  Funny, exciting with a terrific villain.  Looks great and a total delight.

incredibles103. Inside Out– I’ve seen it 3 times in theaters and every time I am more blown away.  Emotional, funny, layered adventure for both the emotions and Riley.  Bing Bong was an unexpected character and the ending is perfect

inside out52. Toy Story– When I watched for this series I was amazed at how it held up.  It’s really a story about how Woody learns to overcome his weaknesses- his jealousy, his fear.  We all fear of being forgotten and that is Woody’s fear.  It still looks good for the story and the emotion and humor hold up.  In the end it is the Pixar I have loved longest so that counts for something.

toy story11. Up– No surprise there.  You guys know it is my favorite movie.  The opening is emotional.  The journey of Carl to overcome his grief and make his devotion to his wife is touching, funny and lovely.  I love the animation and music.  It is just perfect.

up12Here’s my video I made of the ranking

Pixar Review 33: Monsters University

mu19I can hardly believe it but this marks the last of my Pixar series! (Well, until Good Dinosaur comes out that is).  Today we will talk about Pixar’s 2013 effort Monsters University.  It is of course a prequel to the beloved Monsters Inc.

Pixar has a philosophy with sequels that in an effort to not repeat the same movie over again they try to not only tell a different story but put it in a completely different genre.  If you think of the Toy Story movies all 3 are different genres (buddy movie, action adventure, prison escape). The same is true for the Cars movies (nostalgia small town story, spy movie).  They followed this tradition with Monsters University creating a college comedy instead of the mixture of themes we get in original film.

mu2But right out of the gate they make an interesting choice.  Instead of focusing on the hero and in many ways lead of Monsters Inc, Sulley, (he is the one with the relationship with Boo after all) they focus on the sidekick Mike. So how do you tell the sidekicks story?  It’s a tricky thing.

They start out with Mike as a little one going on a field trip to Monsters Inc.  He is inspired by the scarers and decides that is going to be his dream job.  He works hard and gets into Monsters University.  He follows the mantra we’ve seen in a thousand other movies- if you work hard at something you will succeed.

mu17But wait! Pixar decides to subvert this narrative and give us something very unique for a kids film.  The head of the school is named Dean Hardscrabble voiced by Helen Mirren.  She tells Mike he is not scary.  She knows no matter how hard he works he will never be scary. In some ways she is the villain of the picture but in others there is no villain.  There are just people being honest with Mike about who he is.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITYThey also show an interesting dynamic between Sulley and Mike.  Sulley is in  many ways the exact opposite of Mike.  Everything is easy for him.  He is naturally scary and doesn’t have to work hard to be successful.  Mike has his head in books while Sulley doesn’t even bring a pencil to class.  This causes animosity between the two at the start of the film.

But then the annual Scare Games are announced and Mike see’s it as his opportunity to prove he can be a great scarer and be allowed into the scare program.  In order to enter though he needs a fraternity and team.  Sulley needs a team so he ends up joining Mike’s fraternity which he assembles from castaways and nerds.

mu7The opponents in the Scare Games is a fraternity called Roar Omega Roar.  Nathan Fillion voices the leader of Roar frat.

mu9We also get to meet some of the other frats and sororities competing in the Scare Games.

mu15And that’s where we get into the goings-on of the Scare Games and the movie starts to lose me a little bit.  The various obstacles and challenges (cheating and sabotages included) aren’t that compelling for me.  And unfortunately it is a large part of the movie.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITYWithout spoiling it certain events happen that show Mike he is just not scary.  His dream was wrong.  That is a bold concept for a children’s movie to address.  But what he does realize is he is a great coach, a great leader.  He motivates everyone on his team to do better including Sulley.  That is his true gift.  In the end he is sad to give up the dream of scaring but he also seems happy to have found his true calling.  I love that message and I think it makes Mike one of the most complex characters in all of Pixar.

mu13Mike and Sulley also realize they can get where they want by working through the company of Monsters Inc- starting in the mail room and eventually hitting the scare floor.  That’s another very subversive message for a kids movie.  You don’t necessarily need to go to college to get where you want to go.  I love that!

mu18Monsters University also has a bright color palate that I find very pleasing.  Animation-wise it is a joy to watch.  All the voice cast is great including Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, Charlie Day, Aubrey Plaza, Julia Sweeney, Bonnie Hunt and more.

Overall, Monsters University is a very pleasant Pixar movie and one, like I said, that subverts traditional narrative quite a bit for the kind of story it is telling.  I really enjoyed that aspect of it.  It is creative, beautiful and I loved seeing Mike and Sulley’s back story.

However, it is far from perfect.  The Scare Games go on too long and I didn’t care much about them except for when the winners are declared.  At 104 minutes it is a pretty long film and I think 15 minutes could have been cut without missing much of anything.

mu3Also the side characters aren’t that memorable or interesting.  I didn’t hate them but just find them kind of forgettable.

That said, I do like Monsters University.  It challenges the traditional narrative just enough to keep my interest.  I think if you watch it with your kids they will have a good time.

There is some college partying gong on which some parents may be uncomfortable with and some tense moments to be aware of.  Also I don’t know how interested little kids will be with Mike’s job struggles?  Maybe I don’t know.

Randy Newman returns with a lovely score.  I was really impressed with how it sounded like a fight song from a University.  It had that big band collegiate fight song feel to it.

So Monsters University has it’s flaws but the uniqueness of Mike’s journey really rewards the viewer and makes you think about your dreams and life.  Maybe there is something better for you instead of settling for mediocrity just because it is your dream?  We are all good at different things but sometimes those talents take a little more digging for some than others.  Mike discovers what makes him special and I love seeing that take place.

Overall Grade- B-

What do you think of Monsters University?

Pixar Resurgence?

Nobody could be more thrilled with the recent overwhelmingly positive response to Inside Out than I am.  It is a spectacular film in every way and deserves to be heralded as such.  It’s one of those movies I could watch every week for the rest of my life and never get tired of.  It is emotional, funny, bright, colorful, heartfelt, smart and creative. But there is one thing in these responses that has annoyed me a little bit.  People are way over-doing it on the Pixar  ‘return to form’.  Pixar had a few less good pictures but they were by no means the bottom of the barrel when it comes to animated movies.

Collages1I have to be careful because I don’t want to spoil my reviews for Brave, Monsters University and Cars 2 but these movies are flawed but they are not that bad.  All 3 of them lie strictly in my C average movie category which for Pixar is a failure but seriously let’s have a little bit of perspective here.

crazy nightsYou want to know what is a truly awful animated film?  How about 8  Crazy Nights which has a character named Whitey who is frozen in outhouse feces.  You are going to stand here and tell me that Cars 2 is worse than that?  Give me a break.

fly me to moonHow about Fly Me to the Moon which is 85 minutes of terrible fly puns including a fly exclaiming “lord of the flies!”.  It’s mind numbingly bad.  It’s bad in every way something can be bad- it looks awful, jokes are puns and cringe-inducing, story is stupid, voice performances lame.   You going to claim Brave is worse than that?

hero of color cityHow about last years Hero of Color City?  A movie that took me a week to watch it was so painful.  In a year that had The Nut Job, Hero of Color City swooped in and took the crown as not only the worst animated film of the year but one of the worst MOVIES I’ve ever seen.  The animation is awful, characters are all grating and awful, voice performances suck, it’s a cheap rip off of Toy Story and the humor is all in poor taste.  I’d like to hear anyone try to claim Monsters University is worse than that garbage.

And I haven’t even seen either of the Titanic animated movies, Doogle, or Foodfight, which I have on good authority from many sources, are the actual worst animated films ever made. I’d certainly rather watch any of the bottom 3 Pixars than The Lorax ruin a Dr Seuss’ book.  At least Cars 2 just took aim at itself and not a beloved literary classic.

I could probably think of 50 animated movies that I think are worse than Cars 2 or Brave.  I would certainly way rather watch either of those again than Dinosaur, Brother Bear, Chicken Little, or Home on the Range from the Disney canon.  I’d rather watch both all day than nearly all of the Disneytoons library minus the Tinkerbell films.  Have you seen Hunchback 2? It’s nauseatingly bad.

Anyway, you probably get my point.  Yes, the last 3 Pixar movies have problems but they are not terrible films.  They are still beautiful to look at with a lot of creativity, color and care put into them.  In fact, I own all 3 and enjoy watching them on occasion.  I realize that Pixar set the bar very high for themselves and so perhaps the negativity is natural.  People expect brilliance when you create one masterpiece after another.  So much so that when I do my Pixar ranking it is going to be nearly impossible.  The lowest grade I will probably give a Pixar movie is a C- because they all have elements that I like and are at least an average animated film.

On the other hand, maybe this response is a good thing?  Perhaps it makes sure they know they can’t be lazy and expect people to accept it. It’s a message that I wish Dreamworks would get more of but instead their lazy films like Home get rewarded and their ambitious films struggle (speaking of Dreamworks I can think of about 6 maybe more of their movies I would put below any of the Pixar bottom 3).

Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion but I’ve just heard this so much this week that I decided to say something.  With that off my chest,  watch Inside Out.  It’s one of the greats.