My Neighbor Totoro

The climax of My Neighbor Totoro doesn’t involve the Volvo-sized hamster of the title, nor does it involve a sick mother who can only be cured by magic – it involves only a five-year-old girl who is lost and scared because she thinks that she can. Like childhood the film involves a lot of running around and laughing and getting grass stains in exotic places. And it drifts into genuine fear, and magic saves the day.

The Incredibles

The film blasts an affectionate symphony of action spy movie set pieces, which Bird composes with such a self-believing style that he reminds me less of a director than of a virtuoso performer. And even they become a back-drop to what is essentially a mid-life crisis film, about a man who misses himself so much that he doesn’t even notice he has a family. Bird offers a genre fattened on mythic pretension a trimming alternative of joyous energy and dazzling characters.

Shark Tale

It takes zero seconds for Shark Tale to be the worst DreamWorks animated film I’ve ever seen. To find something worse you’d have to watch one of those Disney knock-offs that you pass over on Netflix with a cold shudder, or one of those YouTube-only CG student projects, or a film by Illumination. I’m going to scoop out its anchovy-sized heart and squeeze out the grease between my fingers before feeding it to my cat.

The Fault in Our Selves: Peter Rabbit and the Innocence Problem

Art isn’t just a product: it’s a testament to the beliefs that made it. What beliefs does Peter Rabbit celebrate? A belief in art or analytics, in magic or in marketing? I remember thinking the same of Kangaroo Jack, of which Peter Rabbit is more a successor than to Potter. At least it’s so disparate from itself that it says nothing about her and everything about us.

Kubo and the Two Strings

By remaining outside after dark, Kubo invokes the inevitable quest for three sacred pieces of armor so that he may defeat the Moon King. Kubo weaves its story with the mythologist Joseph Campbell’s pattern, which he called the “monomyth,” by telling a story about a boy and his Mother as though it represented all boys and all Mothers.