I’m well aware that titling this week’s Listless as “Pixar’s lesser movies” is a dicey gambit because, I mean, not only is it kind of an arbitrary idea (these’ll be my five least favorite Pixar movies, as such a list can really only be opinion-based), but Pixar has been on the kind of tear in the past decade where “lesser” is subjective, and even their lesser work has merit. That said, I’ll undertake this fool’s errand, and I hope that you all leave comments about your least favorites/which you’d switch from this list/how huge of an idiot I am. So, I give you:
A slightly empirical/mostly opinionated list of Pixar’s five least entertaining films.
1) Cars (2006)
Easy target, I know. The only Pixar film to miss out on the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in the past ten years (to the cute-then-fucking-terrifying bit of environmental propaganda that was Happy Feet), Cars mostly falls flat in its subscription to one of the most antiquated wells to draw from: the Norman Rockwell-style Old America where things were simpler. Pixar gets points for setting a film in flyover country, but loses them for turning the Midwest into a place where everyone talks slower, integrity is key and Larry The Cable Guy is a primary source of comedy. The weirdest part: Cars is by a mile Disney’s highest-grossing property. That’s why it’s getting a terrible-looking sequel, I guess. (And seriously. Cars with mouths aren’t cute, they’re scary as shit.)
2) A Bug’s Life (1998)
Now that Cars is out of the way, the choices get a bit tougher. 3-5 in particular will probably draw heat, but I know a lot of people who swear by one of Pixar’s earliest, A Bug’s Life. Maybe it’s just that I can’t listen to Dave Foley in a children’s movie after the debacle that was Postal (nice guy, though), but even when I was right in the age range to love this movie, I wasn’t sold. Despite the constant greatness of Kevin Spacey as a villain in anything ever, this update of Seven Samurai for children just never held up to me, mostly because it’s precocious in a way that Pixar proved themselves to be above with Toy Story and have nailed over and over again since. Then again, at least it was better than Antz.
3) Ratatouille (2007)
I’ve been told, often, that I clearly don’t like fun if I didn’t enjoy Ratatouille, but I really feel that this is a weak movie, the phenomenal Anton Ego scene at the end aside. For most of the running time, it’s just a cute-animal-does-quirky-stuff comedy that wouldn’t be out of place in Dreamworks’ mostly lazy oevure, buoyed by strong voice work from Patton Oswalt. This is a kind of zany that I’d argue would be tolerated with far less reverence if another studio put it out.
4) The Incredibles (2005)
Just hear me out. Though it was at the beginning of the wave of revisionist superhero mythology, all The Incredibles really did was take the sort of “superheroes get sad too” modernist approach that graphic novelists had been doing for years and years before, and made it palatable for the mainstream. Though the characterizations are some of the richest Pixar have done, the film itself follows a slew of fairly generic beats en route to an out-of-place sequel setup ending; to be fair, that’s more the rule than the exception with superhero films now, so I guess it was pretty faithful.
5) Toy Story 2 (1999)
Taken as a full body of work, the Toy Story franchise is a devastating portrait of the inevitability of maturity on par with Synecdoche, New York. This aside, the second film is definitely the weakest of the three; though the laughs are frequent, a fair deal of them are easy jokes, and the whole third act of the film is a series of race-against-time setpieces. Plus, I have an irrational hatred for Sarah McLachlan due to all those animal cruelty commercials she’s in that ruin my day every time they air.
(Note: Once again, I enjoyed most of these movies. I also just think that while all Pixar movies are equal, some are more equal than others. And again, if trailers are any indication, I’ll preemptively sub out Cars 2 for Toy Story 2.)