And now we make it to the end. After a bunch of sequels, Pixar seems to be returning to form with the latest Inside Out. After we rate this week’s films, I’ll arrange the entire canon in order according to their scores. If there are any ties, I will use their scores on Rotten Tomatoes to break the tie. If they’re still tied, I’ll choose which one I personally like better of the two.
Alright, let’s wrap up this crazy show.
First we have…
Overview: Headstrong Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) finds herself at odds with her mother, regal Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) who wishes her to marry so as to secure her kingdom’s place with the other clans. But when she happens upon a witch in the woods (voiced by Molly Weasley! er, I mean Julie Walters), Merida asks for a spell she doesn’t understand and then must fight to undo it before it’s too late.
The Concept: 5/10
If The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast had a baby in Scotland, this would be it. Instead of “Daddy, I love him!” it’s “Mum, I dinna love any o’ them!” and then instead of “before the sun sets on the third day” we have “before the second sunrise.” It’s also an “I love you” that brings about the final transformation from beast to human. This was an odd year for Disney since Disney’s entry, Wreck-It Ralph felt more like a Pixar film and Pixar’s entry, Brave, felt more like a Disney film. I’m glad Merida was added to the Disney Princess lineup because she’s a strong character, but it makes it seem that this whole movie was a marketing gimmick to sell dolls, which is kind of “eh…”
The Characters: 7/10
I love Merida and Elinor, even if they conform to character models we’re very familiar with. Merida’a teenage groans and huffs really add a dose of realism and relatability to the character. Elinor is basically King Triton in a dress, but I do like how she is given a dash of complexity, especially in the scene where she throws Merida’s bow in the fire and then scrambles to pull it out once Merida leaves. The rest of the characters are pretty one-dimensional. King Fergus is basically just Billy Connolly in all his delightful glory. He’s warm and hilarious, but he isn’t given much to do since he’s constantly reacting to stuff that happens. I do like Young MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd’s second role in the film; he also plays his father) whose incomprehensible Doric dialect makes him nearly impossible to understand. The witch is fun, too, though I wish we’d gotten more of her. She’s not so much a character as a catalyst for the film’s action, so she’s not given much to do.
The Story: 5/10
Oddly for a Pixar film, the plot is pretty wafer thin. There’s one problem to fix and most of the tension comes from obstacles that the writers sort of hurl in Merida’s way so as to keep things from being resolved too quickly. I love the subplot about the ancient king who is turned into a bear, but the opportunity to really create a complex mythology out of it is wasted and he becomes a secondary obstacle who is taken out pretty easily in the end. It’s really sad that the story is so bland because the attention to visual detail in this movie makes for some of the most breathtaking animated landscapes that Pixar has done since Finding Nemo. It’s a pretty, but uncomplicated movie. And when Cars has a more complex plot than this one, it just feels like something is missing.
The Humor: 7/10
There are some great moments throughout, though overall, there’s not a lot of comedic moments that really stick with you, except for the ample-bosomed cook who screams a lot. I also love the witch. Wish we could have gotten more of her. The humor is often in the little ticks and facial expressions of the characters. A great many gags come from the “Scots like to beat each other up a lot” trope, which, while relatively accurate from a historical perspective, seems a bit overplayed.
The Heart: 8/10
The core is Merida and Elinor’s relationship, and, flimsy though the plot is, they really do have a lot of genuine emotional moments between the two. Their reunion at the end packs as much punch as the beautiful moment at the end of The Little Mermaid where Triton gives Ariel his blessing for her to marry Eric. I also have to give points for Patrick Doyle’s stirring score and the beautiful landscapes. Scotland is gorgeous anyway, and the Pixar animators did it justice.
Overall Score: 32 = 64/100
Monsters University (2013)
Overview: Before they were the record-breaking team at Monsters Inc. Mike Wazowski and James p. Sullivan were college freshmen at Monsters University. Desperate to become a scarer, Mike studies night and day, but when he runs into cocky slacker Sully who seems to be an effortless scarer, the two become rivals. During the university’s scare games, the two must prove not only to themselves and the awkward-but-lovable monsters of Oozma Kappa, but to the university’s imposing Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) that they can make it as scarers.
The Concept: 8/10
It’s a college movie. They could have been a hard luck cheerleading team, or a hard luck football team, or a hard luck glee club; the story is one we all know. The reason it is so entertaining is because they’re all monsters. This movie definitely rides on the novelty of the first movie, but it really dials up the monster weirdness, and so predictable though the story is, it’s still an entertaining concept.
The Characters: 8/10
I love how Mike gets center stage in this one. Sully stole all our hearts in the first one as he befriended Boo, but in this one, we get to see Mike as more than a jittery worrywart. I also like how both Mike and Sully have lessons to learn. Sully learns how to work towards a goal instead of expecting it, and Mike learns how to put trust in others and works as a team. Dean Hardscrabble is also a marvelous character. Not only do I love her design, but I just love Helen Mirren’s performance. The woman can do anything. As for the rest, the side characters are hilarious, but uncomplicated. They’ve got some lovely moments, but they’re mostly just there for comedy relief.
The Story: 7/10
It’s a pretty standard college movie plot, though I like how it throws in the false ending after the big triumphant scene which would normally be the ending in any other college movie. But overall, it’s pretty predictable. It’s fun and entertaining, of course, but it’s not anything terribly original or surprising.
The Humor: 9/10
I do like the comedic elements of the film. Like the first movie, a lot of the gags come from the oddies of monster physiology, but there are some pretty hilarious moments thanks to the writers. One moment that kills me is when Squishy’s mom tells them to have fun while she will wait in the car listening to her “tunes” and it turns out to be death metal. As for the side characters, Charlie Day’s Art is my favorite, the odd purple parabola who is an expert at doing his own thing.
I really like how the main arc for Mike is realizing that, even though he really wants to be a scarer, he’s probably not ever going to be a scarer, even though he’s the hardest working student at MU. And then there’s the character of Don who got a “normal” job when he couldn’t make it as a scarer, but then decided to come back and pursue his dream anyway. It’s a fun, happy movie, but those two characters still speak to a lot of folks. It doesn’t have the same punch as the first one, mostly because Boo isn’t in it, being all cute and adorable, but it’s got a decent emotional core holding it together.
Overall Score: 40 = 80/100
Inside Out (2015)
Overview: When a little girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) moves from her hometown in Minnesota to San Francisco, the personified emotions inside her head, lead by Joy (Amy Poehler), work to help her cope, but when something goes wrong and Riley’s core memories are lost, it’s up to Joy and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) to restore Riley’s mind to working order before she falls apart completely.
The Concept: 10/10
This is probably one of Pixar’s most thematically complex movies, acting as a complex metaphor for how depression works. The concept of emotions being given voices has been done before, but Pixar sets everything up as this gorgeous colorful machine where memories are made, stored, and utilized. And the emotions themselves are, for the most part, more than just caricatures, making this one of the most original movies to come to theaters in a long time.
The Characters: 9/10
The main duo of Joy and Sadness are just magnificent. They’re layered, complex, and incredibly relatable. The moment where Joy breaks down and sobs with grief hits you hard, and the realization that sadness is just as important as happiness is one of Pixar’s most beautiful moments. I also adore the character of Bing Bong, who starts out seeming to be the movie’s villain and ends up being one of the most beloved characters. I also adore how Riley herself is presented. She is all of us and feels so real as a result. I think Fear, Disgust, and Anger tend to be a bit caricature-ish and one dimensional, but it works in the context of the film, since those three emotions are ones which Riley relies on much less often.
The Story: 8/10
The concept is incredible, but the plot itself is actually pretty familiar. It’s a lot like Toy Story in that you have two characters who don’t understand each other getting accidentally sent far away from home and having to work together to find their way back. Joy is a lot like Woody in many ways; she’s always been in control and her big arc comes when she learns to let others be themselves and work with her instead of for her. I think the “Let’s find our way home” plot is a bit cliche, but I gave it a higher score because this film expands it to have relevance to Riley. While Joy and Sadness find their way back to the control room, Riley is finding her way back to mental stability. It works so well and feels a lot less cliche than it could have been. And compared to the Pixar entries that came before this one, it’s clear that the writers were looking to return to the writing quality of their more critically successful films.
The Humor: 9/10
I found this one to be just as hysterical as it is tragic. Fear, Disgust, and Anger are the comedic relief from the heaviest parts of the story, but Joy and Sadness are both utterly hilarious throughout as well. I also love the interactions between Riley’s parents as their own emotions try to resolve the situation and end up blundering this further. A lot of the running gags like the recurring gum commercial jingle are beautifully placed throughout. I also really appreciate the epilogue that runs over the credits for relieving the heavy emotional impact of the movie’s final scenes. It completely explains cats.
The Heart: 10/10
This movie completely devastated everyone in the theater when I first saw it. The kids were all dead silent and many of the parents were quietly weeping. I don’t know if this film was designed to hit kids as hard as the adults. The emotional core of this movie is the tragic truth that the endless joy of childhood has to give way to more nuanced emotions at some point, including sadness. I think the fact that Sadness is often cited as the most popular character speaks to the public’s relief that a movie finally addressed that it’s ok to be sad sometimes. Also, as a child who moved a lot as a kid and who had to keep giving up friends, I really related to Riley’s emotional state. Unlike other Pixar films that elicit tears so as to try and win Oscars, this one seems to hit the most complex and meaningful parts of our souls so as to really say something important about how we can understand people battling depression.
Overall Score: 46 = 92/100
And now for the final tally…
1. Finding Nemo (96) (Winner!!!!!!)
2. Wall-E (94) (Second place!!!)
3. Monsters Inc. (94) (Third Place!!)
4. Inside Out (92) (This one beat my darling Incredibles by 1% on RT. Well played!)
5. The Incredibles (92) (5th place isn’t bad. You’ll always be #1 to me!)
6. Toy Story 2 (88) (I’m still shocked at this one. It beat TS3 by 1% and Up by 2% on RT)
7. Toy Story 3 (88)
8. Up (88)
9. Toy Story (86) (According to RT scores, this one beat Ratatouille by 4%)
10. Ratatouille (86)
11. Monsters University (80)
12. Cars 2 (72)
13. Cars (68)
14. A Bug’s Life (64) (this one has a 92% fresh rating on RT)
15. Brave (64) (This one got a 78% on RT…ouch…)
Just out of curiosity, let’s see how this list would have looked if I had just used RT scores. Since there would be no tie breakers, I’ll stack the ones that tie.
1. Toy Story, Toy Story 2 (100% Fresh)
2. Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3 (99% Fresh)
3. Inside Out, Up (98% Fresh)
4. The Incredibles (97% Fresh)
5. Wall-E, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille (96% Fresh)
6. A Bug’s Life (92% Fresh)
7. Monsters University, Brave (78% Fresh)
8. Cars (74% Fresh)
9. Cars 2 (39% Rotten)
Use whichever ranking you prefer (which should be mine…hint hint)
Anyways, thank you for putting up with all this. It is now out of my system and life can continue.
That’s all, folks! I’ll see you next week!