Highway Hijinks

Ultimately, that is certainly the greatest gift of Onward: its unbelievable ability to distract one from realizing how conventional it is deep down. And Pixar pulls it all off so well that they are actually bound to make many viewers genuinely and fairly believe in far more than that, as some will conclude the story of Ian and Barley is one of the best they have ever produced. It is part deception, part heart, part creativity, and part experience. And with these tools in hand, the company digs itself out of the artistic dead-end that Onward seemed to be in concept. Deliberately or not, it was a position in which Pixar put itself when they opted to assemble their own twist on the trope-ridden road movie genre. And from that tight starting point, it is hard to argue they could have done it any better. Whether it was a self-imposed test or a twist of fate, they passed it with flying colors.

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Second Time Around

It is hard to avoid the feeling that Frozen II could have been better than it is. If stripped to its more basic elements, the movie shows good intentions and solid direction, for when its turns and reveals are paired up with its songs and heart, any viewer can see that the framework for a worthy sequel was right there. The final product, sadly, misses the mark when it strives for a scope that is just too big and when it tries to fill up that space with plot points that fail to come together, falling apart into a convoluted mess instead. In the end, it is impossible not to feel touched, happy, excited, and amused by a good portion of what Frozen II offers. However, when it is all said and done, the movie simply disappoints: not because it is unable to match its prequel, as that possibility was never really on the table; but because its missteps are likely to make audiences wonder if its existence is more corporate than creative. And that is just not an environment in which Disney magic can flourish.

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A Fond Farewell

As such, even if How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World could indeed have been a better film, it plays its role as the final chapter of the franchise very well. The arches that it started to build in its debut are concluded sweetly and in a satisfying manner; the themes and ideas it always relied on evolve alongside its likable cast of characters; and the enchanting universe that served as its home reaches the end of its finely developed cycle. The fact the movie’s brisk pace undermines the impact of some of its conflicts and threats, then, winds up being just a small – yet certainly disappointing – dent on an armor of scales that is still shiny enough to make How to Train Your Dragon be a very rare sight not just in the animation niche, but in the movie industry as a whole; that is, a trilogy that was able to maintain a high level of quality from its glorious beginning until its lovable ending.

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Partners In Life

The heavy focus on Ralph and Vanellope may cause new characters to become mere accessories to the central plot, and the movie’s dedication to the creation of gags that gravitate around signature elements of the Internet may lead its story to be blatantly inferior to that of the original film. Still, Ralph Breaks the Internet is an enormously enjoyable work that cements the link between its protagonists as one of the greatest partnerships Disney has ever put on a screen, a fact that makes the movie’s emotional highs be remarkably touching. And with that, once more, the studio proves it is perfectly capable of balancing its adherence to contemporary trends with its classic dosage of laughter, tears, and magic.

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Alone, Together

The Incredibles 2 was, in the end, a movie that had a whole lot to live up to. The original is still, justly, regarded as one of Pixar’s finest and, as a consequence, one of the best animation movies that have ever been produced, and the fourteen-year wait fans had to endure to get a sequel only elevated those expectations to an unforeseen degree. It is an absolute victory, then, that The Incredibles 2 feels – overall – not like a disappointment, but like a pleasant return that, despite not hitting the same high notes of its predecessor in terms of plot quality and originality, is a worthy successor to it. Sure, had it chosen to move on from the conflict between superheroes and society around which the first movie was built and had it opted to spend more of its time showing the Parrs act together, rather than separated onto two distinct fronts, it is arguable it could have benefited more effectively from the marvelous premise of the series and also presented a more considerable evolution. But, regardless of those missed opportunities, the movie delivers incredible amounts of humor, action, and conspiracy, all underlined by the lovable characters and family matters that make the franchise so likable and relatable.

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Gone But Not Forgotten

The only problem that plagues Coco is that it takes a while to get there. The moments that define it and make it stand out among the delightful myriad of masterful Pixar animations are all tucked away in its second half, making what comes before it feel like a long – yet very much enjoyable – buildup. When Coco takes off, it transforms into a Russian nesting doll of plot twists which instead of getting smaller and less significant as they appear, just seem to become bigger and heavier as they pop out. It is a rough journey, but one that – by revealing quite a lot about Miguel’s family’s past – brings them closer together rather than setting them further apart, which is just about the perfect ending for a movie inspired by a celebration where family union and legacies of love are in the spotlight.

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Rehab

All in all, however, even if it carries an ending that happens through means that may dynamite the experience as a whole to some, Cars 3 is a good movie. It may fall by the lower echelon of Pixar flicks, where Brave, Cars, and Monsters University lie; but, at the same time, it floats far above the cringe-inducing experiences created by Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur. With Cars 3, Pixar leads its least-admired franchise to a conclusion that comes off as natural and, to some degree, necessary, and therein exists the greatest victory of the movie: instead of making viewers wonder why it was produced in the first place, it takes them on the wheels of a journey that is a pleasant and entertaining ride. With Cars 3, McQueen and his peers can ride into the sun with some dignity, leaving the racing tracks on a sweet note, like a superstar who retires on their own terms and when the time is right.

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Strength Of Strings

If Pixar movies cleverly appeal to both adults and children by presenting levels of strong messages under the visual sugarcoating, Laika – here – does something somewhat similar. The difference is that the line they choose to walk is a far more dangerous one, because not only does Kubo and the Two Strings carries its heaviest themes more blatantly on its sleeve, it also deals with emotionally charged subjects; at times, even feeling like a Studio Ghibli work, one that is an adult movie disguised as a beautiful and appealing animation.

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Magic In The South Pacific

Consequently, the key to Moana’s greatness as a movie does not lie in its general format. Its excellence is actually found in the construction of its setting and in how it uses the hearts of two characters, with all their beautiful qualities and weaknesses, as the main roadblocks that separate total doom from the coveted goal. It is, therefore, the Disney fairy-tale with which it is the easiest to connect, because although it does deal with the supernatural in many occasions, the ultimate problems that need to be solved are those that exist within ourselves, and no amount of magic can help us overcome them. In the end, then, Moana’s journey and growth may be a tad cliched, but the way in which it is rolled out is absolutely fantastic, and transforms the movie into yet another great entry in the hall of Disney animation.

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The Unforgettable Second Fiddle

The element that does lift Finding Dory above the “good” threshold is its heart-wrenching emotional nucleus. Dory is always positive and good-hearted, but the world she often encounters in her search for help is one that is indifferent or that often does not know how to, or care enough to, give a hand to the poor friendly fish that wants to find her home but that has trouble figuring out where it is and how to get there. Any relation to a modern world that is way too self-centered and worried about its own problems to pay attention to those of others, which may be much more urgent and grave, is certainly not a coincidence; and Pixar delivers that message with a light and deft touch.

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