4) Everybody else loves Pixar...
It's no surprise that Pixar's latest release, WALL-E, has garnered breathless praise from most mainstream critics. With a Metacritic score of 93 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% fresh, the film carries on the tradition of Pixar's critic proof productions.
Some typical quotations from the suffocatingly positive reviews:
"The best American film of the year to date." - Ty Burr, Boston Globe
"Mixing Chaplinesque delicacy with the architectural grandeur of a Stanley Kubrick film..." - Liam Lacey, Globe & Mail
"WALL-E is a classic..." - David Denby, The New Yorker
"You leave WALL-E with a feeling of the rarest kind: that you've just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Of Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, and Ratatouille, only Cars received less than glowing reviews from the critic herd.
And it's not just movie critics either, I dare you to tell anyone that you're not a fan of Pixar films and you'll bound to be the subject of a dirty look or even dirtier words. And since I tend to be suspicious of things that are almost unanimously loved, all this Pixar love drives me a little batty. I never really liked Michael Jordan or U2 either.
And no, I haven't seen WALL-E yet, and it might be a great piece of film, but I if it follows the pattern of Pixar movies, it likely is less than what it is praised to be, and more than what it pretends to be.
3) Pixar loves themselves too much...
The self-congratulatory attitude that runs through much of Pixar's films and marketing produces more smug than George Clooney in his electric car. For an example, check out this teaser promo for WALL-E:
Look at us, we're creative geniuses. We come up with multiple enduring classics over lunch (organic burgers, of course).
Notice as they pat themselves on the back they leave out the NASCAR/Mattel feature length advertisement Cars, or Ratatouille for that matter, which came from the mind of Jan Pinkava who was taken off the project half-way through the film in favor of favourite son Brad Bird.
According to NPR's Bill Wyman, it seems like WALL-E lets Pixar's smugness congeal even more, as its second half unfurls a diatribe on the ills of our consumerist society. Not that I think that that sort of criticism is unfounded, but it's quite another thing to bury that aspect of the film. It's typical of a production house that thinks the world of itself to call a film a "robot love story" when it's also an elitist dystopic save-the-earth parable.
2) Pixar doesn't love kids...
I'm being too harsh, right? They're just a bunch of big ol' kids who do it for the kids, for the kids goddamit. WRONG-E. Fat guys in Hawaiian shirts or not, these Pixar dudes don't love kids, or at least their movies don't.
This might be the most fundamental confusion about Pixar movies. These are not kids movies that parents can sit through. Pixar makes grown-up movies that parents don't feel guilty about letting their kids watch.
You can see the difference in the marketing, in the sly humor, and in the films financial successes. For there'd be no way these films would be as popular and ubiquitous as they are if it wasn't for the undying allegiances they promote in adults.
Another big clue as to the Pixar point of view, is the unfortunate fact that they routinely cast children as villains in their films. Take for example Sid Phillips wanton destruction of toys in Toy Story or the obnoxious Buddy Pine's transformation into the malevolent Syndrome in The Incredibles.
This point was brought to my attention by my film professor, who makes the important point that it's pretty irresponsible to make purportedly kid-friendly entertainment that vilifies some of the children it represents.
1) I don't love Pixar movies...
Probably the most immediate reason I hate Pixar is the fact that I find their films generally tedious and underwhelming. The Incredibles was a solid, if a bit hollow, superhero movie and I didn't mind Ratatouille despite its snobbery, but that was pretty much because I was hungry. Other than that, I have either walked out of or turned off all of their other films.
Maybe I'm going to love WALL-E when I check it out (which I most likely will), but I'll have to wade through a sea of this Pixar baggage to get to a point where I'll be comfortable with tagging any Pixar film as "classic".