Pixar makes better movies than you. Better movies than the studios. Consistantly better movies than any single director working today. If all 8 Pixar films came out last year, my Top 10 would be infested with Pixar. They created the template with TOY STORY and while other studios eat their dust, they continue to push the boundaries of mainstream animation to the delight of us all.
That's why, whenever a new Pixar movie comes out, it can only be compared to other Pixar films. (Sit down, Shrek!) Here's my list, starting at the Top...
1) FINDING NEMO
NEMO is not only my favorite Pixar film, but one of the greatest films of all time. A classic through and through, with an endless supply of unforgettable characters and many hysterical bits mixed in with tension, danger and life lessons about parents and kids. It's majestic and (like all Pixar films) dazzling to look at.
While other studios brag about their Big Name voice talent, Pixar casts the right people for the part. Would audiences be as likely to show up for a live action movie starring Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres? Plus, director Andrew Stanton cast himself as Crush the turtle, and I can't imagine any name star doing a better job.
2) TOY STORY
Most people think the sequel is better, and in a lot of way it is. Part 2 looks better, has a more epic story and isn't burdened by those Randy Newman songs. ("I Will Go Sailing No More" is a definite low point for the studio.)
In many ways, EMPIRE is better than A NEW HOPE. But it's the first one that made me realize the world was going to be a little bit different from here on out. I'm not overstating my reaction to TOY STORY. it was literally somebody showing me that animated films could be different, with a level of detail never before attempted. (Copycat studios to this day never match the tangible, lived-in beauty of a Pixar film.)
I also prefer TOY STORY because it told me what my inner child knew all along, that when I left the room my toys came to life. They bickered and cracked jokes and - in the case of Buzz and Woody - learned how to get along. TOY STORY isn't just a high point for animaton, it's one of the funniest films ever made.
3) THE INCREDIBLES
Summer of 2004, SPIDER-MAN 2 scored big with critics and audiences, many of whom said it was possibly the finest Superhero movie ever made. Who knew just a few months later, THE INCREDIBLES would make a strong case for being even better. In fact, the genius of the film is its ability to utilize everything we like about Superheroes, both then and now.
Big action sequences? Check. Identity Crisis'? Check. Dysfunctional Family Dynamics? Check. Plus we get a family that's classically Super, yet very Human. (Mr. Incredible's breakdown before the final action scene always reduces me to tears.)
I can't end this without mentioning the film's real Wild Card...Edna Mode. This fashion designer to the Supers (voiced by Brad Bird himself) is 4 steps beyong ingenious and she says my favorite line in the film. "You're Elastigirl! Pull yourself together!"
4) TOY STORY 2
Everything that made the first film great, plus the addition of Jessie & Bulls-Eye, some clever jokes about the marketing of Toys, and Buzz Lightyear's battle with both Emperor Zurg and himself.
This was the film for me where Pixar cemented their reputation as an animation studio with no equal. From the epic opening titles through the airport's luggage belt rescue, the film gave you everything and made it look easy. When Buzz landed in darkness, pressed a button and started to glow, there was a gasp from the audience all 4 times I watched it in the theatre.
Favorite line... Buzz to Ham: "Slotted Pig, you're with me."
Like the Harry Potter stories, Pixar's newest tale aims for a slightly older audience (not the I've heard any kids complaining.) RATATOUILLE for me had a bit of an identity crisis with fast, frenitic chaos bumping into scenes of heartfelt emotion. (Plus I don't quite buy that a rat can control a human by tugging on his hair.) But this rat with Big Dreams has tremendous heart and may become one of Pixar's most appealing characters.
6) MONSTERS INC.
Possibly the thinnest Pixar plot, MONSTERS INC. suffers from too much wackiness, too much screaming, too many creatures running around in panic. But it's still very, very funny and has a classic loveable bear in Sully. Plus, like TOY STORY, it taps into a Universal childhood belief...this time being that Monsters DO wait in your closet to scare you.
And this is where I choose to mention the work of John Ratzenberger who plays the Yeti and says my favorite line. ("Snowcone? ...it's lemon.") He earned the special tribute at the end of CARS.
The most criticized Pixar film, CARS suffers from too many jokes aimed at a young crowd that fizzle and an unusually relaxed pace. The film never achieves full momentum until the final half-hour, but with repeat viewings I've come to enjoy the town of Radiator Springs and the people who live there.
And while I hate Larry The Cable Guy his Mater the tow truck steals the film. Whether backwards driving, tractor tipping or testing out the first new road, heís the ultimate best friend. His goodbye to Lightning during the final race is my favorite line.
8 ) A BUG'S LIFE
BUG'S LIFE benefitted by coming out before Pixar became the greatest studio around. Released today, I feel it would get slammed even more than CARS. The main problem is that the Ants aren't all that interesting, allowing the Circus Bugs to steal the film.
Still, while the story seems like it'd been done before, and a bit far fetched to boot, A BUG'S LIFE gets by because it's a very funny movie. Denis Leary plays a Lady bug...come on