Friday, July 13, 2012

Ranking the 13 Pixar Films.

Happy Friday the 13th.  To "celebrate" I'm going to rank all 13 Pixar movies from my least favorite to my favorite.  See what I did there?  13 Pixar movies on Friday the 13th?  Eh, it's almost clever...

13. Cars 2
Yeah, it's the obvious pick for "Worst Pixar movie."  That said, I don't really hate Cars 2 either.  It doesn't come close the level of most of the other films Pixar has created, sure, but it's not the terrible unwatchable crime against humanity that a lot of people seem to make it out to be.  It's flawed, sure.  And, it has virtually nothing to do with the first film, which is kind of annoying.  But it does make the most of the "hillbilly tow truck in a spy adventure" concept.  And tell me that doesn't sound at least kind of funny.  Cars 2 lacks heart but it is at least entertaining.  And I was surprised that, small though their roles may be, just about every character from the first movie does get some kind of part to play in this one.  So it doesn't totally abandon the established world.  It's worth watching, but probably only once.
Plus, Finn McMissile is awesome.

12. The Incredibles
Yeah, it's the...actually really not so obvious pick for so low on this list.  Why is The Incredibles so low, you ask?  It's not because it's bad film.  It's not.  Until Pixar unleashed the behemoths that were WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3, The Incredibles was a film that often seemed to top a lot of Pixar favorite lists I saw.  And I do understand why.  The story is very clever, the characters are remarkably well developed and it features lots of great homages to classic spy and superhero films.  Which is fun.  But the style of this film has just never quite worked for me.  I can enjoy this film, but whenever I feel like watching a Pixar film, I almost never pick this one.  So yeah, it's not a bad film because it's low on this list.  I just didn't care for it much.  Moving on...

11. Brave
Brave, I'd say, represents a lot of potential.  It's Pixar going in a very different direction by taking the Disney princess archetype and doing their own spin on it.  And parts of the film work beautifully.  The characters are mostly enjoyable.  The atmosphere of the film is gorgeous.  And it does make for an interesting twist on the Disney-type story by making the central relationship between the mother and her daughter.  That's pretty unique for this type of film.  Stylistically, it felt like a mash-up between How to Train Your Dragon and The Secret of Kells.  And that's a mixture that really does work quite well.

To me, though, it just felt like Pixar was maybe a little too far out of their element.  From a story standpoint, I felt Brave fell just a bit short.  The pacing seems a little slow at times and too fast at others.  And some of the plot points felt rather contrived, especially Merida's extremely vague description of what she wanted to happen to her mother when she was talking to the witch, among other things.  Such moments just felt like plot contrivances to move the story in a specific direction and didn't come off very naturally.

Overall though, Brave felt like a solid step in a different direction for Pixar movies, and one I hope they explore some more with other films.  It's just probably not going to be one I revisit real often on its own.

10. Cars
Honestly, there isn't that much I legitimately dislike about Cars.  Maybe it comes from my experiences playing the Putt-Putt series in my younger years (and on my iPod last week...) or something, but I take little issue to a world of living cars.  That always seems to be why people hate it so much.  And yes, it's an easy world to pick apart the logic of if you really want to, but I don't find it hard to simply enjoy the story that's presented. My biggest issue with the film is that's just a bit on the long side and the story drags a little at times.  Beyond that, predictable though it may be, I find Cars to be a genuinely entertaining film with some great moments sprinkled throughout.  Ka-chow.

9. A Bug's Life
My feelings about A Bug's Life are very much like my feelings about Cars.  The difference here is that I think most people actually like A Bug's Life as well.  I wouldn't call it underrated so much as just overlooked.  Sandwiched between two Toy Stories, it's an easy film to forget about.  But it's really worth watching. It's got a fun story, solid characters, a great score, and oozes that special kind of charm that only Pixar films have.  It doesn't quite reach the highs of some of Pixar's later efforts, but for only their second feature film, it's pretty dang good.

8. Ratatouille
 Ratatouille is a hard film to describe.  One one hand, it's a surprisingly dark and sophisticated tale that treats it's characters very seriously and doesn't shy away from scenes that really don't feel like they were meant for kids at all.  And, on the other hand, it's a movie about a rat who cooks by controlling a human like a puppet using his hair.  Ratatouille was definitely the first Pixar movie that really started pushing the envelope of keeping the goofy silly "kids movie" type elements and mixing in much more mature adult story telling, a trend they continued with their next three films.  The only reason this film doesn't rank higher for me is because it has some similar pacing issues as Cars.  It drags a bit at times.  And good luck getting all the way through if you happen to be watching a TV airing.  This film is nearly unwatchable with commercial breaks every ten minutes...

7. Monsters Inc.
I really wish I had a higher place on the list for Monsters Inc.  It's a real testament to the quality of most Pixar films that a film I like this much wouldn't even make the Top 5.  Because I really do love Monsters Inc.  I love it's characters, I love it's concept, I love it's humor.  Pixar is great at creating duos and Mike and Sully are one of the best.  Everything about this movie works very well for the most part.  The constant scenes in generic office-building hallways can be a bit tiresome and some minor plot holes do pop up.  But this is definitely a film where the overall end product is strong enough to make the small issues almost insignificant.  I just hope Monsters University can live up to it's...uh...sequel I guess.

Now put that thing back where it came from, or so help me...

6. Up
The opening montage, the scene where Carl flips through the Adventure Book, and the Ellie Badge.  If you don't cry you're not human.  Plus, Dug is pretty funny.  Adventure is out there!  *thumbs up*

5. Finding Nemo
Holy mackerel.  (Ha ha, get it?  It's a fish joke.)  By now you've probably noticed that a certain trilogy of Pixar films hasn't appeared on this list yet, and it's only thanks to them that Finding Nemo is #5.  This movie is perfect.  The humor is spot on.  The emotional scenes are spot on.  The music is incredible.  Never mind the fact that this film is absolutely gorgeous.  This film just hits all the right notes in all the right places to be a true masterpiece.  Plus, this film is home to yet another of Pixar's great duos: Marlin & Dory.  In fact, I'd be willing to say that Marlin & Dory are Pixar's greatest duo.  Watching the two of them interact is always a treat.  The writing and the voice acting in this film are spot on in every scene.  I'd love to end this paragraph with a quote, but there are so many good ones that I can't pick one.

4. Toy Story
And now for the Toy Stories.  I love them all.  My favorite movie franchise of all time.  All three Toy Story films are incredible and each in their own way.  Pixar found the perfect way to build on the previous film with each sequel.  Therefore, I ranked the films in reverse chronological order.  So technically, the original is my "least favorite."  But that barely means anything here, as it's still a great film.  Toy Story is definitely the least thought-provoking of the trilogy.  It's a buddy comedy and a very good at that.  It doesn't deal with the darker and more serious elements that two and three introduced, but it still tells a great story with great characters and great humor.  Plus the scene with Woody and Buzz trying to chase down the moving van at the end is one of the most fun and enjoyable climaxes in any film ever.

3. Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 took everything that the first film did and made it bigger.  And, in my opinion, better.  The cast grew significantly, with the Roundup Gang, Wheezy, Ms. Potato Head, and Zurg all being introduced.  And, unlike a lot of films with growing casts, all the new characters here fit perfectly with the old ones.  It's easy to forget that Jessie and Bullseye and the crew weren't in the first movie.   On top of that, old characters like Rex get to have lots more jokes and screen time in this film.  Seriously, Rex steals the show here.  He single-handedly makes this the funniest of the three Toy Story films.  Well, he and Al.  I love Al.  He's hilarious.  He cracks me up every time he's on screen.  Toy Story 2 definitely packs in more comedy than it's predecessor.  But, at the same time, when the movie takes a more serious turn in certain scenes it goes to a much darker and mature place than the first film ever did.  Woody's struggle about the future doesn't seem quite as deep in the post Toy Story 3 world, but Jessie's back story is still as poignant as ever.

2. Toy Story 3
In a lot of ways, I find parts of Toy Story 3 to be less entertaining than it's two predecessors.  For one thing, it's not nearly as funny as the first two films.  There are quite a lot of scenes that are virtually humorless and even the comical scenes tend to be a bit more subdued.  I also found that some of the new characters in Toy Story 3 didn't fit quite as seamlessly into the world as the cast additions from Toy Story 2.  So why did I rank it as the best?  Two reasons.

First; the film strikes a tone that's almost eery at times.  Given that the characters spend much of the movie questioning their future and, at times, fighting for their survival, there's a certain melancholy feel that invades the entire film.  Which, in some films would be a bad thing.  I've seen a lot of films ruined by trying to "go dark."  But the story is handled so well in Toy Story 3 that it makes perfect sense.  The humor is downplayed a bit but the story demands it.  On top of that, the last half-hour or so of this film is so emotional that it tops even Up-levels of tear jerking.  From the climax to the end of the film, Toy Story 3 goes from being heart-wrenching to heart-warming, triumphant, yet still bittersweet all at the same time.  It never quite goes into gratuitous levels of sappiness.  It gets just the right balance.

Second:  The film bookends the series in such a fantastic way that it actually changes the tone of the first two films.  Toy Story and especially Toy Story 2 suddenly take on a whole new meaning when re-watched after seeing Toy Story 3.  Despite coming out over a decade after it's predecessors, Toy Story 3 really does feel like the third act in one complete story.  It wraps up loose ends you didn't realize were there.  Because they weren't.  I seriously doubt that was the intent of the series all along, and it's incredibly impressive that Pixar was able to pull it off so perfectly.

In the end, as much as I love the three Toy Story films, WALL-E takes the top prize for me.  I've already described other Pixar films as being perfect.  So I guess that would make WALL-E perfecter?

The story is obscenely clever and fun to watch.  It's emotional and thought-provoking at times with a liberal helping of comedy and even some slapstick humor thrown in.  Having virtually no dialogue for the vast majority of the film gives it a unique a fresh feeling unlike any other animated film.  The environments are incredible to behold and the attention to detail is as meticulous as could be.  The cast, while small, is very good.  And the music, courtesy of Thomas Newman, is among the best ever to accompany a Pixar film.

But the biggest factor that pushes WALL-E into the number one spot for me is WALL-E himself.  I love that little robot.  I loved the character even before the film came out.  So, as you can imagine, I was relieved to see that the film he starred in was able to live up the great character created to star in it!  WALL-E's curiosity and naivety are extremely endearing and fun to watch.  His design is extremely appealing to look at and his voice matches his personality perfectly.  WALL-E is easily my favorite character from any film ever.  And it just so happens that the film that bears his name is just as good as he is.  And that's what makes WALL-E my favorite Pixar film.

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