We don’t get a Pixar feature film this year. It’s been the first time since 2005. It’s been tough. We did get a Monsters University short film, which I’ll review in a minute. We also got the confirmation of The Incredibles 2 at long last and since Samuel L. Jackson says Brad Bird talked him about Frozone playing a part in the story, it’s a safe bet that Bird will write and/or direct the sequel as we all want him to. And at the end of the year, we’re getting Toy Story That Time Forgot. But back to the short film. Party Central was the first Pixar production we got this year. And boy, did it disappoint me.
Let’s start with the positive, though. I thought the short had really funny moments (the humans were the highlight, for me) and, just like the movie it’s based on, it looked gorgeous. But that’s pretty much it. It was an okay sequence of jokes, jokes, jokes. And when the credits started rolling all I could think was “Didn’t Pixar used to think “Story is king””?
This short film was a cool, funny idea. Not a story. It was literally a sequence of jokes with no emotional core whatsoever. And look, I’m not asking for every Pixar short to make me cry. But look at some of their previous efforts: La Luna, Presto or One Man Band. They all told small stories. They had main characters who faced complications, came up with solutions and ultimately learned something. Party Central has a premise that could work: OK wants to hold a party but no one comes. They have an interesting solution, using the door technology. And that’s it. there were no complications. No learning. No protagonists!
I don’t want to sound pretentious or anything but how on earth did no one at Pixar say, at any point during production, “Hey, who’s story are we telling?”. I guess you can argue it’s an ensemble piece but I still find the lack of any character arc jarring. Watching things go well for the characters is boring. We, as an audience, like watching people overcome complications. There were no complications in Party Central. From the moment Sulley and Mike show up with the doors, everything goes well for them. Yawn.
Compare this to the Toy Story Toons or Toy Story of Terror. After telling Woody’s story in the three films, every short film after that has put a different character in the spotlight. Ken and Barbie, Rex, Buzz, Jessie…they’ve all had their chance. In fact, let’s think about Partsaurus Rex for a moment. That’s another Pixar party-centric short film. It starts with Rex being called a partypooper by all the other toys. So when he has the chance to create a wild party, we get why he’s doing it. He has simple complications setting up the party and even when he succeeds, there are consequences when the bathtub overflows. It’s a simple yet effective story. Party Central isn’t, because there is no story.
As you can obviously see, I was no fan of this short. It’s the first time I honestly sense Pixar didn’t even think about the story or the characters. I don’t want to sound extreme but this is probably my least favorite Pixar thing ever. Yes, even more so than Cars 2. Maybe I’m just feeling pessimistic after the How I Met Your Mother finale. But let’s hope this is the darkest moment before the dawn (Inside Out). Come on, Pixar. You’re better than this.