13. Cars 2
A fairly obvious choice for the bottom of the list, I suppose, though I should say that I myself do not detest this film the way many do. Cars 2 is certainly not a great film, nor a very good one, but it has certain charms. The animation is stellar, the voice acting strong, certain plot ideas are creative, and the film has more genuine laughs than many probably remember. Putting sidekick Mater in the spotlight is not a strong narrative decision, but the character is funny and heartfelt, and his perseverance in the face of danger does offer children some good messages.
Still, it’s hard to ignore how blatantly commercial Cars 2 feels, especially considering what a large role merchandising money plays in this franchise’s existence. For a company so devoted to quality, Cars 2 simply comes across as a lazy, thoughtless cash-grab. It has not one iota of the thematic insight previous Pixar films displayed, and its plot is generally messy. I do not believe Cars 2 is a bad film, but it is a thoroughly mediocre one, and for Pixar, that makes it a pretty massive disappointment.
I know Brave has its fans, and I understand what many people saw in this fantastical tale of mother and daughter. Unlike Cars 2, Brave really does have heart, and when it wears that heart on its sleeves, the material can be as strong as anything in Pixar’s canon.
But to me, Brave feels rushed and incomplete, not a surprise considering original director Brenda Chapman was ousted halfway through production. The story is slight and underdeveloped, better suited for a short than a feature-length film, and director Mark Andrews pads out far too much of the run time with silly, pandering slapstick or cheap out-of-character gags. Like Cars 2, much of Brave feels commercially calculated, as if the story were built around a set of demographic-research goals in lieu of heartfelt, organic storytelling.
Brave certainly has its moments, and Princess Merida is one of Pixar’s best overall character creations, but it just isn’t as polished as the studio’s best work, and doesn’t stack up against what came before.
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