Turbo Brought To You By Vagisoft

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Damn it, anyway. Turbo is about this snail who wants to go fast. So he takes an obscene amount of performing enhancing drugs until he can go fast. That’s when he meets this hapless human dude who wants to race him in the Indi500. If that sound familiar, it should. The entire film steals the entire plot structure of Ratatouille. But, unlike Ratatouille, Turbo isn’t very good at being deep.

This wouldn’t be a problem under normal circumstances. I’m ok with a stupid cartoon being a stupid cartoon. But, Turbo is average to begin with and, toward the end, the entire film devolves into one giant product placement and it’s aggressively distracting.

The film is littered with branding. I can count four or so off the top of my head. The most notable culprit is Verizon. That brand is seriously everywhere in this film. Little cartoon kids run around using their Verizon phones, snapping pictures of racing snails, and uploading them onto the interwebs. Every time a phone is used the camera stops and focuses on the Verizon logo for a good ten seconds. It’s distracting and pulled me out of the movie every time. Not to mention, it’s more than a little fucking creepy that product placement has gotten so rampant that it’s bled into animation.

Animation should be above that. Animation, more than any other genre, belongs to the ages. Children watch certain cartoons over and over again. These children grow up, have kids of their own, and they will show the next generation the cartoons they grew up on. It’s how every generation knows the story of Bambi. It’s how, fifty years from now, kids will still be calling clown fish, “Nemos.”

To blatantly show off products in a children’s film dates it immediately. Cause, while I’m certain my kids while know who Buzz Lightyear is, I’m doubtful Verizon will exist in thirty years. And as a result, I also doubt if Turbo will have any place in the future of animation.

Grade: C-

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The John Hughes in Monsters University

They’re the cool jocks that act like jerks. You know how I know? The jackets, bro. It’s all about the jackets.

Like any self-respecting film nerd from Generation Y, I grew up on 80’s flicks. I’ve seen Sixteen Candles so many times I can recite it almost exclusively from memory. I loved Pretty In Pink so much that, to this day, my dick gets hard if I see a redheaded chick. And let’s not forget the man who taught me how to be the biggest pimp in the universe: Ferris Bueller.

These films had one dude in common, a guiding Yoda who oversaw some wonderfully impressionable films: John Hughes. I’m not gonna list all the ways this dude ruled, or how he changed Hollywood comedies for the better. Instead, I’ll just tell you to go watch Monsters University because it’s possibly the greatest homage to Hughes ever created.

So Monsters live in an alternate dimension and take jobs scaring children to pay the bills. But you knew that from Monsters Inc. What you didn’t know is that these furry assholes had to go to college to get a job scaring. The little One Eyed Monster from the first film really wants to scare people, but the Big Furry Kitty Monster from the first film doesn’t think One Eye is up for it. So a bunch of 80’s shenanigans ensue as they learn, laugh, and slowly develop a gay-bones relationship with each other.

There’s a lot to love here. The pace is snappy. The jokes are plentiful. And the images are possibly the prettiest Pixar has ever done. The whole experience is a light breezy comedy that harkens back to some of the greatest, cheesiest Hughes films of the 80’s. It’s got the bizarre zaniness of Weird Science. Plus some of the class/social issues of Pretty In Pink. And the buddy relationship from Planes, Trains, And Automobiles. MU, like all good 80’s films, follows its own set logic, where you can get into a specific major through a series of games, where Deans actually walk around campus and intimidate students, where good guys are socially awkward nerds and bad guys are popular jocks, and you know which one is which because they signify it with glasses and Letterman jackets.

In that respect, it’s easy to dismiss Monsters University. It is a very simple, straight forward comedy. And that’s probably why so many critics are beating it up. At this point, Pixar should be beyond something so basic. But, to say that MU is solely a kiddy comedy vastly undersells it’s charms.

There’s a deep core to this flick that underscores just how adept Pixar has become at telling a story. First, with the exception of a couple of monsters, everyone in MU is a complex, relatable character. Like characters in a John Hughes film, Pixar takes a base characteristic and expands upon it until truly memorable character emerge.

Then, just when you think you’re having happy-fun-times, Pixar drops a pretty radical moral on the audience. One that I’ve never seen a film have the balls to tell children. It’s a lot heavier than “follow your dreams” or “be yourself.” ‘

So, to all the haters thinking that Pixar has lost their touch, I beg to differ. They just made one hell of an 80’s film. And, sure, on the surface 80’s films can seem fairly shallow. But, like John Hughes before them, Pixar found a memorable way to present tired tropes.

Grade: B+

Wreck-It Ralph

“Dude, I don’t care if you’re a video game sprite, You’re not fucking eating my flesh.” – Ralph

Sometimes I wonder just how much Disney hates Pixar. Think about it. Before Pixar, Disney was fucking it. Sure, sometimes companies would make a cartoon or two, but Disney was king. It didn’t matter what they made, audiences had to eat it up and be grateful.

For most of the nineties, Michael Eisner had the luxury of being like, “Families don’t want to watch a film about a Hunchback?!?! Too bad!!! Make that fucking movie!!!!” Or, “I don’t give a shit if it’s historically accurate and gross, Pocahontas need giant tits AND bang John Smith!!!”

Then Eisner made a misfire, from a corporate standpoint. He hired a tiny little, relatively unknown company named Pixar. And, like all young hungry talented whelps, Pixar changed everything. Suddenly story mattered. Out of the blue, it became cool to please both children and adults. And, more important to investors, Pixar always returned a profit during a time when Disney became fat and lazy.

This miscalculation cost Eisner his job.

And, through the fog, Pixar started a new fad of hip, fun cartoons aimed at everyone. It’s been a good run for Pixar. I honestly love their shit on a completely biased level. They could make a film about a talking piece of shit and I’d probably be like, “Dude, sweet!!!”

Yet, there are signs the company is getting just as fat and lazy as Disney was in its renaissance. Because, frankly, Cars 2 blew fucking chunks and Brave barely lived up to its potential. And, worse yet, Disney’s been in the wings, brandishing its swords, and slowly coming back and making great films. Princess and The Frog stands up to the best of all Disney films. Tangled was a little uneven but still managed to be awesome. And, bringing us up to the present, is Wreck-It Ralph, which proves that this company is ready to fight for its crown.

Wreck-It Ralph takes place inside an arcade machine where, much like toys in Toy Story, the video game characters come to life and hang out when players aren’t looking. Our hero? Actually isn’t much of a hero. In fact, Ralph has been programed to be a villain in a Donkey Kong style game from decades ago. In that time Ralph has grown tired of being the baddie. He wants to bang chicks and get cake, like a hero. So he goes on a quest inside multiple games in hopes to bang chicks and get cake.

It doesn’t take a genius nerd to see Disney stole a couple of pages from Pixar’s playbook. There’s a lot of background gags, inside jokes, and just a simple focus on character. Yet, there’s a decidedly Disney approach to the film too, as most of the characters honestly aren’t as edgy as most Pixar characters are. It’s a good blend that works.

Now, things aren’t perfect. The film starts amazingly, flying out the gate with numerous jokes and deflt laying out the rules of the arcade world. But things kind of level off in the second act and, for the middle of the film, characters are just kind of spinning wheels until something awesome happens.

Which brings us to the finale, this film really cares about the third act. I harp on this constantly but it’s the truth: the third act IS the film. You can have the world’s greatest first or second act but it doesn’t fucking matter if everything falls apart at the end. Ralph is almost pathologically obsessed with the third act. It’s a pleasant surprise after a tepid middle half. I was almost ready to write off Ralph then, BAM, totally fucking sweet ending that legitimately felt earned.

I imagine Pixar’s very own John Lasseter had a huge hand in this film’s ending. Hell, he’s pretty much responsible for shaping up the House of Mouse. I don’t care who is in charge as long as they keep making rad films. Wreck-It Ralph is good enough to be Pixar. But proudly bares the Disney name. Like I said, there’s fuel left in this company’s tank yet and I can’t wait to see them work it out.

Grade: B+


“But, Ma, I don’t want to bang those dudes.”

Pretend you have a kid. (Sorry, that sucks that you popped one out, maybe you should have practiced safer sex and now you wouldn’t be stuck with a whiny-money sucker.)

We’ll name your kid… oh… I don’t know… Pixar. Anyway, Pixar is straight A all the way. The little nipper is valedictorian, prom royalty, and wins every major sport they practice. If Pixar was a car- shit I’m analogy crazy today- it would be a Porsche: sleek, smart, and easy to love.

It goes without saying, after years of excelling, you expect a lot from Pixar. I mean… Pixar never fails. It’s the perfect child. You love Pixar. Pixar can do no wrong.

Then Pixar, one day out of the blue, makes Cars 2, one of the shittiest movies of last year. Up is down, black is white, universes are collapsing into each other. Oh wait, none of that happened. The world kept spinning and Hollywood kept making sequels while Pixar licked its wounds and promised to do better with Brave.

And the did. No doubt about it, Brave is a million times better than Cars 2. But that’s an obvious, and easy goal to attain. There’s nowhere to go but up. But it’s hard to tell if the film would have been as enjoyable has Cars 2 never happened.

The film centers around Princess Merida who is forced into this game where dudes from other clans try and bang her. Merida wants none of it though. She’s got a mighty strong chastity belt that keeps all the fellas at bay, which annoys her mom. Princess and Queen fight. Magic things happen. And we all learn a lesson about how awesome mothers are.

Aw, I’m crying all over my keyboard here.

Truthfully, I love that moral. I started scanning films in my head and the list of films, good films, about mothers and daughters is short, scarily short. We all know Hollywood hates chicks but it’s still strange they don’t appease chicks who are moms or have moms which is, like, almost all of the chicks in the world.

And of course it should be noted that it’s visually flawless. Every hair, every freckle, every movement of Meria is fluid and immaculate. Not to mention the staggering beauty of the forests she runs through.

So the actual set up, moral, and visuals are pretty rock solid but something stale still permeates the film. It’s actually not something I could put my finger on. I’ll have to check it out a couple of more times before I figure it out but, at the end of the day, there was just something very, very un-Pixar about the entire film.

At least it wasn’t Cars 2. Boo-ya!!!!!

Grade: B+