In general, I consider myself to be somewhat of an objectivist. For example, I think certain things are inherently “bad,” and others are “good.” In movie terms, this means I allow myself to make brash statements like “The Godfather is an inherently a better film than Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” I know, I’m a total ass.
There are certain times, though, when one’s ability to grade movies against each other simply breaks down. I was originally going to make this an article arguing the merits of The Incredibles over all other Pixar fare, but I can’t do it. Because there is a difference between having a “favorite” movie and objectively arguing that one movie is “better” than another.
Yes, The Incredibles is by far my favorite Pixar movie, but I can’t in good conscience make an argument that it is better than Wall-E…or Monsters Inc., or Finding Nemo. Each one of these movies is a near masterpiece, and grading them against each other feels cheap.
So instead, I’d rather just talk about Pixar as a whole. Take a look at their slate of films. It’s a list that any filmmaker would be proud to have his/her name attached to, but that isn’t what strikes me. What really blows me away is how Pixar, with each film, manages to keep the spirit of adventure and heart but can still branch out into new genres and very different types of stories. Sure, there are similarities. Pixar loves a buddy picture, and Toy Story has definite similarities in tone to Cars and A Bug’s Life. But no two movies on the list feel like the same film…at all.
That should be, and is, surprising. The normal mode of thinking in Hollywood is “find something that works, stick with it, and run it into the ground. Then pray you can find something new.” This is very much the opposite.
I think I really felt this the most when watching Wall-E. The movie is a silent film for large chunks and at the same time manages to be a fairly interesting, socially aware piece of sci-fi cinema. Never once in the viewing did I think of any of the other Pixar movies.
Until I sat down afterward to think about it. When you get right down to it, there are a lot of common elements. As much as Pixar likes to experiment, all their movies are grounded in realistic, every-day emotions and character relationships. They have resisted the urge to push things “too far” by giving us an over-the-top actioner or a dark, brooding fairytale devoid of all humor. Sure, The Incredibles works as a superhero movie in its own right, but it’s still “A Pixar movie.” You can feel the same hands at work in each film, but in a different way.
I’ll keep this article short…I feel like with Up coming out this weekend (with its current 100% on Rotten Tomatoes), the Pixar love is going to be spread pretty thick.
But I’m honestly not sure how these guys do it. I think it’s just the fact that they meticulously work out each story from a character standpoint before a marketing standpoint. Or that they encourage experimentation, but have the foresight to know when something is “interesting” but not “working.”
I do keep waiting for them to screw up. Their closest misstep was Cars, but it’s better than 90% of the family fare coming out nowadays. So I wonder…when will Pixar finally let loose a serious bomb?
I hope never. If there was ever a company that was able to put out movies that bitch-slapped my curmudgeonly heart, it’s this one, and I wish them nothing but the best in the future.
Check back soon for our review of Up.