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Inscrutable we: Why the hot kid flicks don’t speak to grown-ups

July 5, 2013
He knows I'm right.

He knows I’m right.

I guess if I were a run-of-the-mill middle-aged media critic, I’d be worrying right now about which messages the summer’s animated hits are sending to our children. But honestly, screw kids. They’re better equipped than we are to process this sort of stuff anyway – chiefly because they haven’t yet begun the process of unlearning the basic values that we who live in “the real world” continually need to be retaught.

Instead, I’m focused on a different question: What do 2013’s cartoons of choice have to teach us adults? The answer, unfortunately, is “Not as much as they could or should.” For all their other charms, Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 fail to impart much in the way of life coaching a grown-up of the 21st century can take to heart. And that’s a loss. I mean, who do these flicks think they’re for, anyway?

The best Pixar movies have always been autobiographical tales by and for adults. The studio has done some fine work paying tribute to the sources of their own storytelling urges (as in the Toy Story movies) and dramatizing how they learned to shake off artistic criticism and follow their bliss (Ratatouille). But their two masterpieces widened the scope of their inquiry to an experience far more adults can understand: parenting.

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