While “Cars 2″ is never going to be confused with art on the level of the upper echelon Pixar films, it was above the curve for animated films in general. I watched my son watching the film almost as much as I watched the film on the screen, so I am biased. I watched it through a three year olds eyes. He was on the edge of his seat, mouth agape for much of the running time.
As we walked out of the theater and browsed the aisles of “Cars 2″ merchandise at Target he called out all of the items that he wanted some day. That turned out to be about 96% of the merchandise. As I said, the film worked: James was happy to see the original cast return, talked excitedly about his new favorites and wanted to buy everything that had all of the above stamped on it. “Cars” is a mutli-billion dollar merchandising machine annually, make no mistake that was why “Cars 2″ was made.
The original “Cars” is one of the weaker entries in the Pixar canon. I like it more than I probably should as it is one of my son’s favorites. It is not a bad film, a bit flabby, and it really only shows real warts when sitting in the company of the rest of Pixar’s pristine catalog.
“Cars 2″ slots right above it.
- That being said “Cars 2″ is among the best looking films Pixar has ever made. The detail of the world that
the sales opportunities, I mean characters live in is beautifully realized.
- I was disappointed in the way that they decided to deal with Paul Newman’s death. While I am not sure how I would have felt has they brought in someone else to voice Doc Hudson the way they dealt with his absence did not work for me. Doc and McQueen’s relationship was one of my favorite things about “Cars” as it dealt with the issue of disliking someone based on how they showcase your former foibles.
- The additions to the cast are spot on. Michael Caine shines as British agent Finn McMissile. In fact the spy storyline that features him, especially the opening set piece, are the strong parts of the film. I would love to see a Finn McMissile side project, even if they are only shorts.
- The Mater/McQueen storyline does not feel right. I would have thought that after the lessons that McQueen learned in the last film that he would not treat Mater as someone he needs to hide. I thought that lesson was already learned it made me view the way he behaved as only being played that way to service the story.
- They get enough little things right that it didn’t bother me the first time through. Ask me how I feel this fall after I have watched the DVD once a day for a month. I am sure that I will have a litany of things that just don’t add up.
- The “Toy Story” short at the beginning was well done. While I prefer shorts to another feature length entry I missed seeing the original Pixar shorts that were the standard before “Cars 2″. I would prefer that they tack existing property shorts onto other Disney films in the future, as they are this holiday with another “Toy Story” short being attached to “The Muppets”.
Recommended, with some small reservations. The film is still better than most Dreamworks features and is worth at least one viewing.
As a Dad who watches his kids during the day I get to watch a lot of kids films and programming. At the top my viewing list are Pixar films. We own them all. What defines Pixar’s greatness is the commitment to character based narratives. Even when the films are as high concept as Monsters who scare kids to provide energy it is all about the motivations, wants and desires of the characters.
With the quality of Pixar films being so high it is virtually impossible to create an list of what is the best. What follows is not a “best of Pixar list”, but rather my ranking of what films I connect with best. By the definition above what that really means is what characters I connect with best.
11. “Cars” – I am sure that it is not a shock to anyone who clicked on this post to find this film on the bottom of the barrel. This film is widely reviled and while I think that it is by far the weakest entry in the Pixar canon it takes more heat than it should. My two main problems with the film are the protagonist and the pacing.
Lightning McQueen is not the easiest protagonist to relate to, he is cocky and arrogant. He is the weakest of all Pixar leads by far.
The film is way too long. I know that John Lassiter, Pixar and Disney Animation’s head man, is a huge car buff. This film was very personal to him. And I think that closeness to the subject matter blinded him to some much needed trimming.
I can say this with some level of expertise as I have probably seen the film well over 100 times. My son James was addicted to it for the first half of 2010, before he discovered “Toy Story”. The film has many reasons to love it, the voice casting is amazing: a Pixar standard. What I love most was hearing Paul Newman voice Doc Hudson. I miss him every time I watch “Cars 2″, all 200 times. He was the soul of the film.
10. “Wall-E” – I have only seen the film once. I remember liking it, but feeling like I should appreciate it more. Perhaps that was due to the fact that I was watching it with a 3 year old. This film deserves the “Upon Further Review” treatment that “Up” received a month ago. This film may move up the list after that viewing. It rates ahead of “Cars” due to potential and Mater fatigue.
9. “Monsters Inc.” – It pains me to put this film so low on the list. As I said Pixar’s overall quality means that someone’s feelings will end up getting hurt. In this case it will be my Mom as she is a Mike Wazowski devotee.
While the film is great I just don’t have the connection to Mike that I do to many of the leads on film’s that rate above it on this list. Still there are so many great characters and moments in the film that it is not easy to have it ranked in the bottom third.
8. “A Bug’s Life” – Highly underrated in my opinion. Most people that I debate the film with admit to not seeing the film since release. Watch it again. I admit that I have this higher because I was among the legions who underrated the film. Watch it again and you will be amazed. It is not the most original tale that the folks have put together but I loved Flik’s journey nonetheless.
7. “Toy Story 3″ – At first I felt the film undermined “Toy Story 2′s” narrative a bit. And that rankled me a bit. After watching the film some 100 plus times with my son James I have come around a bit.
I loved is that Woody comes to the realization that not only does he want to be with his friends, but he wants to do what he was put on this earth to do. Though he loves Andy he was made to played with, and not even his history with Andy should keep him from that.
The opening high budget recreation of the opening from “Toy Story” where we were able to peer into Andy’s mind and see what he saw in his mind’s eye while playing. Amazing scene, I have to imagine it was one that was worth seeing in 3D.
6. “Ratatouille” – Cooking is an art. Anyone who has ever aspired to following their dreams has had obstacles and doubters in their way. Few that I know have faced as many as the lead character in the film Remy: a rat who dreams of pursuing his culinary dreams.
This film should not have worked, a film about a rat who cooks should be a non-starter. Credit Brad Bird for finding the heart of the story through Remy and making this film one of the finest love letters to the culinary arts in film history.
5. “Toy Story” – The film that started it all still works in spite of the technology clearly not being there compared to the studios’ later efforts. It all works because Woody is such a strong character. I love “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, great song. My favorite song in the film is “Strange Things”. It accompanies the first of many amazing montages done in Pixar films and perfectly displays the shift in Woody’s reality in a perfect and economical fashion.
4. “Finding Nemo” – I am a sucker for Albert Brooks. So from the get go I was biased.
I used to feel that his Marlin was over the top overbearing. Since I have become a parent I realize that he is simply slightly overbearing: he is doing what I feel most of us want to do but restrain ourselves. Who can blame Marlin after what he went through?
A father’s quest to save his son while facing his own fears is a powerful story. In Pixar’s hands it plays out on a beautifully realized canvas. As always the supporting characters are gold and all seem to have their own stories either bubbling at the surface, making the lead’s journey all the more rich and nuanced.
3. “Toy Story 2″ – When my son says that he wants to watch “Toy Story” I always try to steer him towards this film. Any thoughts that he “Toy Story” films were about two friends (Buzz and Woody) was smashed with this entry: Woody is the star, Buzz is the sidekick. I have always been partial to the neurotic cowboy.
We all fear being outgrown by the people in our lives. This film tackles that truth of life and knocks it out of the park without even pandering to the smallest fans in the room.
2. “Up” – Once upon a time I underrated this film.
From my “Upon Further Review”:
“Up” is a very deep and adult film at its core. It is a love story, and not your typically shallow one. This is about the kind of love that does not get celebrated enough on film: mature, deep and real love. Carl Fredricksen is defined by his love for Ellie. And when he loses her, he loses a bit of himself.
What a brilliant, beautiful film.
1. “The Incredibles” - I love comic books. And if that were the primary reason for me putting this film on top of the great ones that preceded it I would feel a bit ashamed. While the film does provide a brilliant deconstruction and amazing commentary on the genre it is not even close to why I loved the film most out of the Pixar canon.
“The Incredibles” is all about how not fully embracing who you are affects all aspects of your life. When Bob Parr has to give up his calling of being a superhero and take on a cubicle job at an insurance agency it guts him. He gains weight and worse yet he does not see all the good he has in his life.
The lesson of the film transends being a hero, it is universally human: know, accept and celebrate who you are. In Bob’s and my case it is specifically: when you don’t reach and aim to be all that you are meant to be it is hard for you to be the husband and father that you should be.
All of the above is what makes the film so brilliant…and you can toss in the fact that it is a great superhero tale to boot.
30 years before James’ life revolved around “Toy Story”, my world was all about “Star Wars”. This time 3 decades ago I endlessly pondered:
- How was Han going to be rescued from Boba Fett and be freed from the carbonite?
- Could Luke ever beat beat Vader, especially with his new mechanical hand?
- Would we ever see the Emperor?
And every time it snowed all I could think of was Hoth, that has been the constant through my life. Throughout the snow days and storms of my day there was not a time where I played through the snowy squalls and did not pause and at least imagine I was on that amazingly cool, frozen planet.
During my senior year in college I worked at the local multiplex. I did not have a car, so I often would walk to work. My trek took me down routes 20 and 60, and a few times I trudged through significant cold temperatures and snow to get there. What got me through? Imagining that I was Luke, trying to escape the Wampa’s cave was a source of comfort and warmth straight from youth. I may have even uttered a “Ben…” out loud as shivered down the cold lonely sidewalks of Fredonia.
I was 21. I was and still am a dork at heart.
It’s okay, I know who I am. Even the prequels awfulness cannot tarnish my association of snowy weather with the amazingly cool ice planet of my youth.
Later, out in the snow with my kids, I will be building snow men and we will knocking them down with our sleds. My heart will be in touch with my inner youth; my heart will be on Hoth.
Thirty four times January 28th went by, just another day on the calendar, nothing to take note of. Three years ago you turned January 28th from a nondescript day into one of the most significant and my favorite days of the year.
Not to be macabre on your big day son, but I won’t always be here to remind you of who you were during your 3rd year on this planet. I plan on being around for a long while, but what if I am not? What if my memory fades and I can’t tell you about what a great little boy you became this calendar year? What if you never knew all of the little idiosyncrasies that made you, you in 2010? (Hint: It involved Pixar)
For someone who experienced it all along side you I think that would be a crime. Here are some of the highlights:
- Your sister Anna was no longer Nana, as you called her for the first half of the year. Like all of your mispronunciations, I miss it. But I know that is a selfish feeling. Your speech grew by leaps and bounds; you often received compliments on how verbose you were. Thank your sister, she helped even if you don’t want to admit it.
- Speaking of Anna: you finally stuck up for your self. We chidingly called you her minion for the first part of the year. You would follow her around like a baby duck to a mother, doing her bidding. And then something changed, you had enough. I can’t recall what the exact moment was but I remember being proud of you for sticking up for yourself. I did have to chat with you about the rough manner with which you finally defended yourself.
- You became a full fledged movie geek and in the process ditched “Cars” during the latter half of the year for “Toy Story”.
- This happened as a result of taking you to your first movie at the theater, “Toy Story 3″. I will never forget the look on your face when I came into the theater with a giant bucket of popcorn or the fact that you kept your hand tethered in that bucket for the whole film. I watched you more than I watched the film. Your eyes were wide, you were perched on the edge of your seat; you fell in love with the Cinema that day. When you did I fell for you more than I already had. I can’t wait to experience many more cinematic journeys with you.
- After seeing “Toy Story 3″ we had to pick up “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ on DVD. We watched these on a loop until “Toy Story 3″ came out on DVD. Your favorite of the trilogy was “Toy Story 2″ for this year.
- For Christmas all you asked for was “Mr. Evil Doctor Porkchop”. You made everyone laugh when you said that. You of course got him among many other things.
- As Toy Story Fanatic you usurped Woody from me. I had been a fan since 1995. You anointed the Green Aliens from Pizza Planet as my favorites. I gladly took them and never said a word. Deep down I was happy that you chose Woody over Buzz; at least you did for a while. Still Woody was never mine again, he was yours as it should be.
- You went as “Buzz Lightyear” for Halloween as you were “Woody” the year before. Your “To infinity and beyond” was dead on perfect.
- Your favorite food was a cheeseburger with pickles, that was it. When you were 2 and 1/2 you pounded a 1/4 pounder at Glenwood Pines in Ithaca with your Grandma and Papa by your side marveling at the way you ate it all.
- Your favorite color was brown, we suspected that your Uncle Jon had something to do with that.
- You listened to “Goodnight Moon” almost every night before bed. One of your favorite things to do was to say “Margaret Wise Brown” and “Clement Hurd” along with me when I read the title page. You beamed when you did, looking up at me from my lap, you knew it pleased me that you acknowledged who wrote and illustrated the book.
- Your favorite song was, “Funny the It Is” by The Dave Matthews Band. You asked for it by saying, “Way it is daddy, way it is…”
- You were a ham, an utter ham. When someone laughed at you, you pushed for more. You started doing voices, making me even more proud of you.
- Did I mention that you were a shameless flirt?
- You were constantly mimicking the actions of your favorite “Toy Story” characters and creating new adventures for them. I enjoyed your recreations of scenes as they played on the television behind you. I may be biased, but yours were better.
- You were and are my best friend. You would finish that sentence for me during this year as well. I would say, “You are” and you would chime in, “my BEST friend.” I know you were just playing along, but it meant everything.
There is more, so much more, and I plan on adding it as I remember. It was a great year, I cannot wait to see what year 4 brings. My guess with “Cars 2″ coming we may shift from “The Year of Toy Story”, to “The Year of Cars”. Dare I ask for “The Year of Star Wars”? OT of course…