Sunday, June 26, 2011

Two Turn Signals Down, Pixar

John Lasseter and Pixar Films, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I have no idea WHAT that was that we just took our kids to this afternoon. It was supposed to be Cars 2, but seemed like love child of Disney merchandising and Mission: Impossible 27 - The One with the Dippy Sidekick.

Scott and I have, for the last decade, chosen to see Pixar films reviews unread due to the tremendous quality of writing and the depth of heart in the painstakingly realized characters.

But this? No... this, your 25th anniversary film, was essentially one big freakin' commercial. I get that cars (and Cars) are easy merchandise to move. What parent or grandparent feels guilty about dropping $5-6 on a measly Car? Heck, we have an entire tubful of them from the first movie. My favorite is Doc Hudson with his Hudson Hornet racing stickers on -- hubba hubba! However, a mere ten minutes into this film and I was rolling my eyes. Sumo cars. Flight attendant cars. Italian villager cars. British royal cars. The cast list goes on and on and on and on... Not to mention all of the playsets: fancy hotels, oil rigs, Japanese/Italian/British racetracks... Where was Radiator Stinks? Oh, yeah... in the background.

For a company that prided itself on pushing the boundaries of technology and the notion that animated films could just be GOOD MOVIES, this one was a huge letdown. Had any other studio released it, my comment would have been, "Oh, it was fun, but it was no Pixar movie."

Where were the layers in the storytelling? There was nothing so unexpected as Dory, so breathtaking as Wall-E and Eve dancing in the starts, so heartwarming as Andy jumping into the box of toys going to Bonnie's house. No one went on an emotional journey like both Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson did in the original. Mater is, was, and always will be Mater -- he's a character who is comfortable being who he is and to put him in the position where he doubts himself rings a sour note. There's a reason he's drawn like a second-grader just growing into his adult teeth -- his innocence is so pervasive, his naivete so genuine that he has to look like a child. No second grader goes on a journey of self-realization where he suddenly sees himself from the perspective of others and thinks what he sees is bad. Mater just doesn't have the insecurity to do that.

And the friendship lesson? Lightning learned that one when Sally tipped his hand into getting him to follow through with the whole helicopter ride thing. He's got that one down. Even the attempt to make him grow exasperated with Mater seems like a stretch.

This movie feels like the writers sat around and tried to make a full-length film out of one of the Mater shorts on the Disney Channel. There just wasn't enough there for a feature film. The race sequences are built for a video game -- the rainbow bridge was straight our of Mario Kart. How disappointing.

I guess that maybe, after 25 years, you aren't the new kids on the block anymore. You aren't the maverick, the visionary, the one with "it." You have become the establishment. And we're the unfortunate parents who you're trying to get to pay for it. Two turn signals down, Pixar.

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