Pixar seem to have been a bit hit and miss in recent years. For every Monsters University or Toy Story 3, we’ve had a Brave or an Up … so I’ve actually felt more satisfied with Disney’s own creations like Tangled or Wreck It Ralph. However we now come to this, Pixar’s latest and rather intriguing effort.
This follows the simple story of Riley, an 11 year old girl who is uprooted from her cosy existence in Minnesota when her parents move to San Francisco. It’s not long that she begins to pine for ‘back home’ and struggles to fit in at her new school. At the same time, we get a look inside young Riley’s head where four little beings are hard at work, and represent her varying emotions; joy, anger, sadness, fear and disgust. It’s not entirely a new concept but done with no end of imagination as we see the four beings squabble and work hard to get Riley through her day as different aspects of her personality and memories come under threat form current circumstances.
I found this incredibly entertaining and it was really well executed. The idea of different islands representing important parts of Riley’s personality was ingenious (imagination land, goofball land, family land etc.) and with Pixar’s wonderful style and gorgeous animation, it was a world brought stunningly to life. The emotions that run Riley’s head were also very well realised, especially Joy who tries to make good of every situation and also Sadness who has the uncanny ability of bringing doubt and unhappiness into everything, whilst still managing to be likeable. These two emotions become the main focus of the story as Riley faces different obstacles and I loved where it went, bringing in imaginary friend Bing-bong and various other funny characters (the ‘my hat’ police, the workers who tidy up the deep memories archives, the imaginary boyfriend).
For an animated movie I found this especially creative and it didn’t dumb down the over-arking message for a kiddie-friendly audience. I got quite emotional towards the end, and this was both thought-provoking and feel good, with some themes really hitting home. One of Pixar’s finest. Essential stuff.
There was a time when in my humble opinion, Pixar animation could do no wrong. A near perfect run that included Toy Story, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles and Wall-E. Then we had Cars and Up that despite looking the part, seemed to lack that certain something. This latest offering seems to fall into the same camp … sadly.
Merida is a spunky princess in a Scottish clan, who has become an expert with a bow and arrow, but feels that her mother the queen’s insistence on an arranged marriage isn’t the destiny she wants for herself. Now on first impressions, I was swept up by the likable characters, gorgeous animation and a refreshing setting. However this turned into a very different movie than expected. We don’t get a story where our plucky heroine sets out on an adventure and proves herself against impossible odds to save the day. This is more a story of a mother and daughter, of witchcraft gone wrong and putting things right. It didn’t grab me like this sort of thing should, lacked any memorable gags, and the plot, I’m guessing influenced by Scottish mythology, seemed a bit all over the place. And why make her an expert in archery, and do nothing with it?
Like Up it had plenty of ideas, but they didn’t seem to gel when thrown together. Yes it all looks superb (especially the hair!), Merida is an enjoyable creation (voiced well by KellyMacdonald), and BillyConnelly provides plenty of energy voicing Merida’s father. Yet for me it just didn’t win me over enough to instantly recommend.
I feel I have been waiting to see this movie for a long time. Ever since I finished watching Toy Story 2, I was thirsty for more. That movie built so much on what the first, classic movie delivered, playing on jokes that worked so well the first time round, and introducing new characters like Jessie the cow girl to my already feverish adoration of Buzz & Woody. It also looked so much better. So the anticipation began, just what could they do with a third Toy Story? Oh the possibilities…
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