Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson
Have I Seen it Before: Oh, sure.
Did I Like It: What’s not to like?
Criticism of a Pixar film (certainly in the era pre-Cars (2006) feels like sort of a moot point. While the computer technology used to make their films were in their adolescence, if not infancy, the films were such undertaking that it was impossible not to churn out a finished product without having fully considered it from every angle.
The writing is impeccable, because they took the time to iron out any difficulties they may have had in the early goings.
The production design is flawless because they had to take the time to make every inch of their worlds from nothing.
And every voice performance ad infinitum well in advance, so any false moment or out of context reaction could be ironed out before the movie hit cinemas.
So, what else is left to talk about in a film that so effectively zeroes in on exactly what it wants to be in every aspect of it’s being? The choices that got Pixar to this point.
I suppose I most marvel at the disparate choices made in this film specifically. In a dream team of filmmaking talent, Brad Bird was and is first among greats. A lesser filmmaker would have been content with the story he had concocted, but Bird makes the film an eclectic celebration of the Silver Age of comics he clearly loved the most. Not content to simply mimic the style, say, of the Adam West Batman TV series (which would have been a totally understandable and enjoyable choice in and of itself), Bird makes the world of his characters a celebration of the 60s (and leaning most heavily into the pre-Roger Moore James Bond pictures of the era), throws in just a bit of manic Andy Warhold energy, and at the same time makes the world feel as modern as it felt in the early 2000s, but timeless enough to feel fresh nearly fifteen years later.
The film is an aesthetic wonder living among a catalogue of aesthetic wonders. As I type this, I’m suddenly thinking that it might be Pixar’s greatest achievement stylistically to date. Other films like the Toy Story sequels or Inside Out may more effectively tap into the heart of the moviegoer, but every frame—every pixel—of this film is a symphony of deeply considered animated art.