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Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

12

Brave (2012)

For those who waited patiently for the first Pixar film to be led by a female protagonist, it’s understandable that Brave might have been a disappointment, arriving after the studio hit its artistic peak, and suffering from a handful of authorship woes. But the feminist fable remains the most underrated of this revered brand’s lot, not least because of Princess Merida’s eye-popping head full of aptly unruly hair. The movie may enchant with its focus on Scottish lore (an element arguably explored better in How to Train Your Dragon), and it may deserve a hand for its girl-power, who-needs-a-husband trajectory, but the distincitve bit that puts the lump in your throat is the mother-daughter story. From Aladdin to The Little Mermaid, Cinderella to Tangled, princess tales almost always deal with the heroine’s link to a father or an evil mother surrogate, never an actual mom who imposes relatable, resonant rules. This far more interesting dichotomy gives Brave an especially fresh and expressly female perspective. And while Merida’s mother’s transformation into a bear may seem gonzo and random, it’s actually perfectly appropriate: Together, mother and daughter must fight to undo a beast of a burden, one that’s historically, symbolically masculine in nature. Osenlund

Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

11

Finding Dory (2016)

Though it suffers from some overly familiar caper antics, Finding Dory nobly embodies the “Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Release” motto of the Marine Institute where most of the film takes place. Dory’s short-term memory loss, a source of mostly comic relief in the original, is evoked with bracing seriousness after the blue tang finally recovers a sense of where she lost track of her family. Director Andrew Stanton uses ingenious whip-pans, POV shots, and arhythmic edits to conjure both Dory’s illness and her recovery, and a new supporting cast of disabled friends realize their strengths as they help Dory recover her sense of self. Christopher Gray

Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

10

Inside Out (2015)

Pixar’s most ambitious undertaking is an ironically literal-minded exploration of the figurative contours of a young girl’s mind. Director Peter Docter spends most of the film’s running time having characters explain the particulars of his conceit aloud, which quickly grows suffocating in its cleverness. The human mind resembles the PreCrime lab in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, where the harried emotions file ball-shaped experiences away in recesses via cylindrical tubes, color-coding them according to the reactions they respectively elicit. Of course, the film’s about maturity as the realization that no event triggers a singular emotion, dramatizing the girl’s blossoming awareness of nuance. There are indelible images, such as the terrifying sight of “personality islands” as they collapse into a void that symbolizes depression. But Inside Out doesn’t come alive until its moving climax, and even this is undermined by a shrilly pat ending that’s all too characteristic of Pixar. Bowen

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