Culture Clips: Pixar’s Incredible, Indelible Run

incredibles culture clips

What do Christian movie reviewers do for fun? They match cinematic brands in a massive, statistical showdown to see which comes out on top.

Well, maybe that’s just what this Christian movie reviewer does for fun. A few days ago, when I was stuck writing a review/story/blog/haiku, I thought I’d give my brain a little break and tabulate the average Rotten Tomatoes “freshness” score of a few beloved brands and franchises.

The winner turned out to be a slam dunk: Pixar. The first 19 movies in Pixar’s canon averaged an 88.2% freshness rating. That’s an insane run in terms of quality: The most beloved franchises and the most talented directors in the world can’t match it. (Marvel’s Cinematic Universe comes closest of the ones I’ve looked at, logging in a pretty impressive 83.8% freshness rating.) And early reviews of Incredibles 2 (97% fresh on RT so far) would push that stellar average even higher yet.

And here’s something even more amazing. Not only do critics love these flicks, not only are they beloved by families, but according to Relevant’s Tyler Daswick, they’re one of our age’s great moral teachers, too.  “These are movies you grow up with, but also movies that grow up with you,” Daswick writes. “You would expect our favorite movies to be those that set us free from the challenges of life, but the brilliance of Pixar reveals our favorite movies are those that engage with those challenges.”

Pixar’s not the only source of inspiration on the big screen these days. Critics are also praising Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood that seems ready to push into the mainstream (which is unusual for a doc). It boasts a 99% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes right now, and many writers, including NBC’s Jill Rothenberg, are reminiscing about Rogers’ own influence on their lives:

I know I’m not the only kid Fred Rogers helped raise — there is a whole generation of children out there who learned kindness and empathy and self-worth from this soft-spoken former Pennsylvania minister who told us daily that he liked us just as we were.

Seems we could all use a little more inspiration these days. Or even just a little hope.

Adam Holz wrote yesterday about the cultural influence of suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, as well as the frightening rise in suicide rates over the last couple of decades. Tributes to both celebs, especially Bourdain, have continued to pour in, even as Rose McGowan suggests that Bourdain sought help before his death. In the wake of these suicides, Jada Pinkett Smith admits that she’s thought about taking her own life, too. The Federalist’s Ben Domenech suggests that Bourdain’s death says something about our deeply lonely, isolated culture.

Indeed, loneliness seems like it’s an epidemic these days. It seems to be particularly problematic for Millennials, who are more likely to develop mental health issues such as anxiety and depression if they’re feeling alone. (And loneliness isn’t  particularly easy on the heart, either.)

That might seem weird, given that today’s technology allows us unprecedented connectivity. But sometimes that very connectivity can actually squelch our ability to bond with others in the tactile world around us. Take the fact that more and more teens don’t feel the need to get a driver’s license when they turn 16. And while that may help keep kids off the streets, some believe something intrinsic, even “magical,” is being lost in the process.

Speaking of losing something, Miss America is dropping the swimsuit portion of the competition. Great, right? Well, sure, but it seems a bit ironic, given that 43% of Americans now believe that pornography is “morally acceptable“—a jump of seven percentage points from just last year.

People’s attitudes toward pornography isn’t the only thing changing, though. The entire entertainment world is gearing up for big changes, experts believe, in the wake of the courts clearing the way for the massive $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T. Other entertainment companies could follow suit in an effort to compete more effectively with today’s mega-companies, such as Google and Apple. But not everyone was thrilled with the decision.”History has shown us that when these telecom companies get bigger, they don’t get better,” Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, told USA Today.

Yep, with all the chaos in the world, seems we need a little inspiration more than ever. A few heroes from Pixar. A little Mister Rogers. Or maybe, in a pinch, the serene voice of the late PBS painter Bob Ross (who died in 1995). Folks have made a sleep-aid app called Calm, using three episodes of Ross’ popular (though apparently sleep-inducing) show The Joy of Painting.

“He was and still is a hero to the hard of sleeping,” says app co-founder Alex Tew.

These days, we can use all the heroes we can get.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

seraph_unsung More than 1 year ago
Good morning!  I wanted to say that I saw Incredibles 2 yesterday and highly enjoyed it.  Stylistically I would consider it an improvement from the first film (less family bickering and fewer strange design decisions, like the original's inflating black blobs), albeit with some language.  However, I do want to mention that families may wish to be aware that several scenes in the film contain extended sequences of rapidly flashing lights, which are unpleasant to watch but can be outright dangerous for some photosensitive individuals.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved Cars 3! My problem with Bug's Life is the whole "liar revealed" setup. I'm never a fan of the storyline being based around a misunderstanding or misrepresentation and the inevitable fight when someone finds out the truth. It's such an overdone trope and I find it unpleasant to watch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

That’s why I love Pixar. They’re able to make kid friendly movies that tackle such deep themes without all the junk that so many other movies have that also tackle deep themes.

Unlike Disney (who recycle the princess setting just so they can sell more dolls) or DreamWorks (who rely on immature jokes and pulp culture references), Pixar prioritizes story and characters, two of the most important things when crafting a movie, and while they’re golden days are probably behind them, they still occasionally strike gold.

Pixar will always have a friend in me, and I truly think that buying them was the smartest movie that Disney ever made.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great points, First Comment Guy.

Even a little past their prime, when it comes to consistently providing heartfelt, creative and successful movies, Pixar is still the best studio around.

Here's my totally subjective ranking of Pixar's movies, from best to worst:

Inside Out
Toy Story 3
Toy Story
The Incredibles
Monsters Inc.
Finding Nemo
A Bug's Life
Toy Story 2
Cars 2

(Haven't seen)
Cars 3
Monsters University
The Good Dinosaur
Finding Dory
Incredibles 2

-- The Kenosha Kid
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Nice list!

A little surprised to see Toy Story 2 so low, but to each their own, I guess.

My list would probably go like this.

1. Inside Out
2. The Incredibles
3. Monsters Inc.
4. UP
5-7. The Toy Stories
9. Finding Nemo
10-11. Cars and Cars 3
12. Finding Dory
13. Ratatouille
14. Brave
15. The Good Dinosaur
16. Monsters University
17. Cars 2

Movies 1-13 are all “true” Pixar movies, in my opinion, and I’d like to rewatch the Toy Story movies and the first and third Cars movies before I give them a concrete rating on my list.