It’s been a while, but Pixar By Numbers is back!
Alright, first up we have…
Cars 3 (2017)
Overview: After a devastating crash, Lightning McQueen has to decide if it’s time to retire or keep racing. His situation is complicated when Rust-eze is bought out by a wealthy businessman who doubts McQueen’s ability to get into racing shape by the next season.
The Concept: 8/10
I actually like the back-to-basics approach this one takes. It feels much more of a sequel to the first one than the second one. The clash of old and new is cliche, but it makes for an entertaining film.
The Characters: 7/10
McQueen’s arc is great, and ties in really well with his growth in the first movie, but I was surprised how all the secondary characters become SO secondary that the focus is basically JUST McQueen and Ramirez. And that’s fine, but I would have liked to see more Sally. She and Lightning are a thing and yet she’s so far on the sidelines, we don’t even get any hints that they’re in a relationship at all. I would have liked at least one scene where he gets to talk through some of his insecurities and issues with her.
I felt like Nathan Filion was sorely underused. He’s a delight, but his character became more of a catalyst to move things along rather than a genuinely interesting antagonist.
I will say, I LOVED how Paul Newman’s Doc Hudson got to be an integral part of the film. I guess they used deleted scenes from the first movie for his flashback scenes, but it was really awesome to hear him again.
The Story: 7/10
The plot is super predictable, but it’s got a soul. Even though you can see the twists coming miiiiles away, you don’t mind, because it moves along with a fun pace that never feels draggy or rocky. McQueen’s overall arc is actually really poignant, a sort of more mature progression from his arc in the first movie. I was pretty impressed.
The Humor: 7/10
I actually liked that this one wasn’t as funny as the previous ones. There’s still a lot of amusing moments, but it wasn’t as wacky or bizarre as the second one. There wasn’t really a lot of super memorable stuff (probably because the side characters have such small parts) but it served the story well. I feel like there could have been a better balance of humor in order to appeal to kids more, but I think the filmmakers were trying to play things safe. Not much stands out, but at the same times, nothing descends into ridiculous territory.
The Heart: 8/10
What Pixar is best at is presenting adult issues in situations that children can empathize with. No child anywhere is going to face issues of retirement/feeling obsolete and out of touch, but if they are faced with an adult in their family who IS dealing with such things, they can understand where they’re coming from.
And even though it was obvious waaay in advance, Ramirez getting to be a racer like she’d always dreamed was a nice changing of the guard. I must admit to getting a bit gooey inside when McQueen came out with Hudson’s color scheme and number. If they do continue the franchise, I look forward to seeing how this new mentor/student relationship progresses. But if it doesn’t, this was a great way to end things.
Overall Score: 37= 74/100
And then we go to…
Overview: The story of a young boy who wants to be a musician like his idol, but his family has banned music because of Miguel’s ancestor who chose music over family. When he steals a guitar from the mausoleum of his idol, who he believes is his own relative, he’s cursed and sent to the land of the dead where he must obtain the blessing of a family member before sunset or he will stay there forever.
The Concept: 10/10
This movie is beautiful. The entire Day of the Dead art style is rendered to spectacular effect. Each Pixar film has focused on a different group of characters (superheroes, toys, monsters) but I think was the best possible treatment of ghosts/spirits that they could have done. The visuals are stunning.
The Characters: 8/10
Hector and Miguel are incredibly-written characters. I think Hector is one of Pixar’s most multi-layered and thoughtfully-written characters. I just adore both of their arcs. Miguel has such an infectious energy and enthusiasm, but also a resentment that pushes him to find answers and not trust anyone (except for the one person he shouldn’t trust).
I also loved Imelda. When we see her through Miguel’s eyes, she’s threatening, but once we get to know who she is, she very nearly steals the show. I LOVE her singing at the end. It’s just one of those moments that makes you want to get up and cheer.
My only complaint is the family back in the real world (except Coco because she’s adorbs). Their Footloose-esque ban of music seems very “plot point” as opposed to a decision consistent with their family’s lingering pain at Coco’s dad’s leaving.
The Story: 9/10
The Plot is a bit predictable, especially once we get to the reveal of the villain, but overall, everything moves with such a steady pace that you don’t mind. I think the whole focus is the characters, and their arcs are given enough space to breathe without things feeling rushed. Plus, there’s a great balance of the hilarious and the thoughtful.
I also like how the music is seamlessly integrated into the story. It’s allllmost a musical, but it blends everything together so well that everything feels like a logical progression from what came before. It’s intelligently crafted and a lot of fun.
The Humor: 9/10
When it’s funny, it’s hilarious. The humor doesn’t feel tacked on, nor does it feel forced. I love all the sight gags, and I think Diego is one of the most awkward hilarious sidekick characters ever. I could watch him fall over and be weird forever. Also, the relateable family moments are a delight, and it’s just wonderful. The comedy is balanced throughout, and I’m a fan.
The Heart: 9/10
This one’s really emotional, but not in an over-the-top manipulative way. It didn’t have me bawling the way other Pixar films have, but it’s still got a wonderful message. I think the central conflict is a bit heavy-handed, with music ultimately bridging the gap between the past and present, but the characters are so well-rounded and interesting that you don’t mind. I think this one is a good sign that Pixar is moving out of their slump and continuing to stay relevant.
I do think they need to try shaking up their story-telling methods, though, because the ending is very predictable, and I think that hurts its emotional impact a bit. When Pixar started blazing trails with more sentimental stories and making disappointment a recurring theme, it was great, but I think it’s time for them to go in new directions.
But overall, this is a wonderful movie and I can’t wait to get it. Definitely would recommend.
Overall Score: 45=90/100
Let’s see where the ranking stands:
- Finding Nemo (96)
- Wall-E (94)
- Monsters Inc. (94)
- Inside Out (92)
- The Incredibles (92)
- Coco (90) I’m pretty happy where this one ended up on the ranking.
- Toy Story 2 (88)
- Toy Story 3 (88)
- Up (88)
- Finding Dory (88)
- Toy Story (86)
- Ratatouille (86)
- Monsters University (80)
- Cars 3 (74) (I’m liking the steady progression of each Cars films as they go)
- Cars 2 (72)
- Cars (68)
- A Bug’s Life (64)
- Brave (64)
- The Good Dinosaur (60)