inside out

Inside Out

Pixar has for the most part been beloved by both critics and moviegoers, but even the Emeryville animation studio has been criticized for years for not featuring a female protagonist. This criticism certainly led to Brave,  which was okay but not up to the level of the other non-Cars Pixar animated feature films. But Inside Out knocks it out of the park, and not only is the main character of Riley a complex female protagonist, but three of the five emotions inside her head are also female (sadness, joy and disgust, leaving anger and fear for the male roles).

And as I said in my review of the film, this film is a better female-driven story than in the rest of the movies in Pixar’s catalogue, but maybe even in Disney animation history. You could maybe argue for some of the recent Disney animation princess movies like FrozenTangled or The Princess and The Frog, but for my money there isn’t a stronger and more relatable female-focused Disney animated film than Inside Out. And besides, its not a fairy tale or a love story.

That said, it appears Disney is having some problems connecting the crazy inside-the-head-of-a-teenage-girl concept with audiences. The initial Inside Out teaser trailer spent the first two thirds on a highlight reel of Pixar’s best films and characters, trying to sell the new film on the Pixar brand rather than the concept or characters. Sure, the characters inside Riley’s head have been the focus of the recent set of marketing blitz but will it connect with mainstream audiences? One thing I’ve learned, never underestimate the power of Pixar. Many financial publications have bet against them in the past when it comes to their overly-original concepts, and they’ve all eaten crow.

Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2

You almost can’t get more female than Pitch Perfect, the ensemble cast returned this summer with a whopping $69 million opening weekend, more than the entire theatrical run of the first film. While I love love LOVE the first film, the sequel packs some good sounds and more laughs but lacks the heart and fun of the original. Universal is already working on a Pitch Perfect 3.

Spy poster header

Spy

This is the biggest movie this summer that I have missed, and I’ve heard its hilarious. Sure, at this point a Paul Feig-directed female driven comedy seems like a sure bet, but that his films can open in a summer filled with huge explosions and special effects and grab the #1 slot is something to celebrate even if its considered underperforming when compared to Feig’s previous film. Word of mouth on this movie is strong.

Trainwreck - Amy Schumer and Bill Hader

Trainwreck

And we should also mention the Judd Apatow-directed Amy Schumer-starrer Trainwreck even though it seems to be more of a straight-up romantic comedy than the other films on this list. Early word coming out a surprise work-in-progrss screening at South by South West Film Festival claims it may be Apatow’s best comedy in years, if not his career.  The film will hit theaters in mid July as counter programing to Ant-Man, I’ll be interested to see how it performs.

Star Wars 7 images - Daisy Ridley as Rey

Have We Hit A New Era Of Female Driven Blockbuster Movies?

And beyond this summer we only need to look to the biggest film release of the year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to see where we are headed. The film features Daisy Ridley in the starring role, which is likely going to be the lead protagonist for the next trilogy of Star Wars films. Its probably way too early to tell, but I think its safe to say we’ve come a long way from Slave Leia in a bikini on Jabba’s sail barge. And with Hollywood doing female Ghostbusters and 21 Jump Street movies, it seems like we are entering an era of female-driven big budget films.

But the future usually looks bright when you’re looking forward. The New York Post asked in the earlier linked article, how many films might it take to “underperform” (like Spy) or “flop” (like Tomorrowland) to have Hollywood executives lean the ship towards the other side again?

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