Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: “Coco” arrives in theaters on November 22nd. With that in mind, we asked our panel of critics to name their favorite Pixar movie. In a testament to the studio’s work, all seven of the critics who participated in this survey highlighted different films.
Christy Lemire, @christylemire, RogerEbert.com/What the Flick?!
For a long time I would have said “WALL-E,” just because it’s so audacious: It’s about a lonely garbage collector in space, and the first 15 minutes of it are wordless. The fact that is actually got made and released by a corporate behemoth was mind-blowing. But now I’m going with “Inside Out,” because it’s just as groundbreaking and profound in its own way, but it’s even more effective in simultaneously blowing our minds and tugging at our hearts. Soon after my then-5-year-old son saw it, he made some reference to Sadness turning the orb blue to let me know he was bummed about something. I was so impressed by the film’s ability to give kids a vocabulary to express complicated emotions at a time in their lives when everything is so black and white, good and bad, in extremes. It’s also just flat-out beautiful and has a tremendous voice cast. And don’t even try to hold back the tears over Bing Bong.
Jude Dry (@JDry), IndieWire
Obviously, it’s “Finding Nemo.” Dory is one of the greatest comedic characters of all time, because nothing is funnier than a fish with short-term memory loss. (No doubt helped along by the incomparable Ellen Degeneres). Plus, its absolutely gorgeous colors and seascapes make it the most visually stunning of all of Pixar’s films.
Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) Pajiba/Nerdist/Riot Material
It’s “Ratatouille,” no question. They managed to take a story that is on its face repulsive (a rat cooking meals for humans!), and make it not only adorable but also whimsical and inspiring. The way they visualize flavor in the scene where Remy explains his passion for cooking is iconic, and rightly so! Because it can speak for any form of creative arts. This film is a celebration of creation, revealing the passion and the risks alongside the victories, which are sometimes small or compromised.
It’s also a film that’s every frame is full of life, from Ian Holm’s scheming Skinner to Will Arnett’s scowling sous-chef, to Lou Ramono’s rollerskating waiter, Janeane Garofalo’s furious love interest, and Patton Oswalt’s oft-flustered but always excited rodent chef. But admittedly, it holds a special place in my heart for its depiction of the critic Anton Ego. Sure, he starts out as a vulture of doom in his coffin-shaped study with his skeleton-like typewriter. But upon biting into the titular dish, his flashback not only changes how the audience sees him, but also shows the flip side to being a critic. Yes, sometimes we must seem like mirthless killjoys, dead-set on loathing anything we see. It can be crushing work seeking wonder and revelation and finding only mind-numbing muck! But when we get to experience something fresh, wonderful and thrilling? We too are the beguiled child, giddy with enthusiasm and relishing our role in telling the world.
Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for the Guardian, Vulture, Nylon
It says a great deal about me that my favorite Pixar film is the one with all the existential crises and suburban middle-age ennui. I am referring, of course, to “The Incredibles,” a cartoon for children about an unstimulated married couple reckoning with the fact that they’ve lost control of their lives and haven’t fulfilled the promise of their youth. I was in the tank for this one from the jump — it arrived at a time when my bone-deep love for superheroes had not yet been ground out of me by overexposure, and Giacchino’s score is an all-timer — but over time, I’ve come to appreciate that this may be the most grown-up Pixar project, reckoning with ideas and experiences known specifically and exclusively to adults. “The Incredibles” is a film about failure in which characters learn not to overcome the concept but to make their peace with it, and realize that some failings are an essential, unavoidable part of life, and that that’s okay. What are you waiting for? Something incredible, I guess.
Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail/Film Festival Today
The first 10 minutes of “Up” (2009) are among the most poignant cinematic moments ever put to film. I remember watching the movie and wondering, “Where do they go from here?” And yet they do go somewhere – geographically and narratively – and keep the story moving forward in exciting new directions. But that opening, in which we see the entirety of a life in all its sad and beautiful glory, is just devastating. Almost every Pixar film has a beat in which a wave of profound emotions cascades over us, sometimes unexpectedly. In “Up,” it is especially surprising, since the catharsis arrives in the prologue. But when the script is working, it is almost a guarantee that we will burst into tears at some point. In “Monsters, Inc.” (2001), we do so when Sully reconnects with Boo, at the very end; in “Ratatouille” (2007), that happens when food critic Anton Ego is transported back to a childhood memory after taking a bite of the titular dish; in “Toy Story 3” (2010), it is when we see the tableau of all the toys, in their new home, staring out at Andy as he heads off to college, away from them forever; and in “Inside Out” (2015), it is when Bing Bong, Riley’s forgotten early-childhood toy, sacrifices himself to allow Joy to continue on her journey. The magic of Pixar has always had less to do with the brilliance of their animation techniques (though those are nice, too) than in their understanding of the power of nostalgia for things lost. We cry from sadness, but also from the joy of recognition that ours is a universal human experience, shared by all.
Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker), Freelance for Birth.Movie.Death., The Mary Sue, Hello Beautiful, Harper’s Bazaar
“Brave.” Few animated films since “Mulan” have presented a young feminist quite as fiercely as “Brave.” She’s bold, heroic, and not defined by male standards.Plus, how cool is it for kids who can someone as strong as Princess Merida?
Siddhant Adlakha (@SidizenKane, Birth.Movies.Death.)
The story of how “Inside Out” came to be is as fascinating as the film itself despite its sheer simplicity: Pete Docter noticed how his daughter’s personality changed as she aged. It confounded him, and so began the most “Pixar” Pixar journey since the company’s original shorts. What started out as an artistic investigation into understanding the evolving mind of a child ended up an experience that, with the help of numerous child psychologists, feels like being understood. It’s the closest thing to an instructional manual on growing up.
After anthropomorphizing and granting emotions to toys, cars, fish, robots and rats, the only place left to go was to anthropomorphize emotions themselves. The concept takes full advantage of Pixar’s oft-maligned house style, filling the head of eleven-year-old Riley with joy as a glowing fae, sadness as a teardrop, fear as a mauve mantis, disgust as sassy broccoli, and anger as a fiery volcano (to wash away the taste of of the preceding short, which shall not be named). The tale therein, which sees Riley fall into a numb, near-depressive state upon moving to a new city (externalized internally via joy and sadness getting lost in her subconscious) is not one of rediscovering happiness as some quick-fix solution, but one of letting sadness have its stay, and accepting the full spectrum of human experience in all its complexity… It’s also about moving forward into adulthood by letting go of innocence, but I fear mentioning the death of a certain cotton candy elephant might dredge up some collective trauma.