A Bug’s Life (1998)

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On behalf of “oppressed bugs everywhere,” an inventive ant named Flik hires a troupe of warrior bugs to defend his bustling colony from a horde of freeloading grasshoppers led by the evil-minded Hopper. (Letterboxd)
Some of the extra computer-y 90s PC game animation bugs me a bit (couldn’t resist) but that’s the only real flaw of this excellant offering of clever world-building (see the bug bar–where everyone can get a good buzz), great humour, and an engaging protagonist in the creative but hard-luck Flik. The surprisingly dark antagonist climax (“Let this be a lesson…Ideas are very dangerous things!”) and the inspiring hero moment after (“You’re wrong, Hopper”) highlight some compelling themes as well.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Onward (2020)

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Two elven brothers embark on a quest to bring their father back for one day. (IMDb)
Hits a lot of the familiar road trip story beats but the Americana x magical fantasy setting is a unique one (gorgeously animated) and provides a good share of memorable moments (most notably Guinevere’s heroism that had me in tears). The real gem of the film though is the last act featuring good ol’ (dragon-conquering) Mom and a completely unexpected, incredible, beautiful, heart-wrenching emotional climax (not the sweet but on-the-nose journal writing flashbacks but the silent view from afar).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

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In order to power the city, monsters have to scare children so that they scream. However, the children are toxic to the monsters, and after a child gets through, 2 monsters realize things may not be what they think. (IMDb)
Hilarious (high-energy, wise-cracking Mike is an absolute [actual] ball–“Roz, my tender, oozing blossom”–and has great chemistry with amiable big guy Scully) and heartfelt (I felt my heart melting at that final shot; Boo was absolutely adorable), with a clever premise that serves as the vehicle for a brilliant thematic thread commenting on the (actual) power of love, laughter, and creativity in the face of division, fear-mongering politics, and resignation to an unethical system of economics.
9/10 (Amazing)

 

The Incredibles (2004)

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A family of undercover superheroes, while trying to live the quiet suburban life, are forced into action to save the world. (IMDb)
The bad: for some reason the exaggerated animated bodies rubbed me the wrong way this time around (see Mirage’s literal stick figure), and the return to superhero-ism seemed much too smooth and welcome given the fall-out to open the film. The good: pretty much everything else; the comedy’s solid (efficient Edna’s a hoot) and the action is top-notch, with the central family under study giving it a strong emotional element (the helicopter flight with Mom and kids is the best scene of the film).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Finding Dory (2016)

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The friendly but forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, begins a search for her long-lost parents, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way. (IMDb)
The first 2/3s or so is–dare I say it?–rather forgettable (and sequel-ly) as Dory’s memory loss is rehashed for both the humour and the sentimentality already present in Finding Nemo (the emotionally potent reunion being a notable exception). The final act is much better, with the “What would Dory do?” motif nicely elaborating upon another dimension of her personality and setting the stage for more fun “fish out of water” action (the “What a Wonderful World” climax is beautiful and hilarious).
7/10 (Good)

 

Finding Nemo (2003)

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After his son is captured in the Great Barrier Reef and taken to Sydney, a timid clownfish sets out on a journey to bring him home. (IMDb)
A simple yet heartfelt adventure story is packed full of intense action (the final net sequence post-ending felt unnecessary though) and memorable (often hilarious) side characters whilst overflowing with overwhelming emotional depth, from the heartwarming main premise (the “Did you hear?” montage is a tearjerker) to the heartbreaking opening scene, to the nuanced dynamic between Dory and Marlin throughout (I don’t want to forget!” “I do.”). Beautifully animated and stunningly scored to boot.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Toy Story 3 (2010)

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The toys are mistakenly delivered to a day-care center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college, and it’s up to Woody to convince the other toys that they weren’t abandoned and to return home. (IMDb)

Seems to tread on some familiar ground with the Andy-obsessed Woody instigating another “get back home” adventure plot, but its central journey (this time a fantastically elaborate prison break) is more enjoyable and creative than ever and thoughtful new themes of toy aging and retirement are introduced. The daycare setting feels a little unrealistic (the toys rarely seem to think about human contact) but it does bring some great new characters (see flaky Ken) to the usual hilarious mix.

8/10 (Great)

Inside Out (2015)

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After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school. (IMDb)
Numerous creative anthropomorphisms and objectifications of the mind entertain (room of abstract thought), intrigue (the idea of personified emotions controlling another person doesn’t always click but there is lots of potential–see the charming final glimpses into other minds), and move (the pit of forgotten memories, crumbling identity islands). Simple and sweet stories with nice messages on both levels lose a little bit of impact and depth of characterization by having to share screen time.
7/10 (Good)