Film review by: Witney Seibold


            I want to make sure that you know, up front, that I very much liked Pixar’s newest animated feature “Up,” and that I highly recommend it to anyone. When I start to nitpick a little later, know that I’m not by any means dismissing the film.


            “Up” is a delightful and gorgeous and touching film. It deals with everyone’s very human need to leave a mark on the world. The characters are all clearly delineated, emotionally believable, and even have realistic physical movements that are all too rare in CGI animation. The film’s opening minutes illustrate, largely without dialogue, the 1930s childhood meeting of Carl and Ellie, and their subsequent clubhouse games, close friendship, marriage, nesting, miscarriage, life together, and their eventual parting when Ellie dies. This portion of the film is so touching and simply told that you may find yourself in tears before the film proper even begins.


            Carl, now 78 years old and played by Ed Asner, wanders around his empty house, idly talking to his dead wife, and throwing curmudgeonly glances at the encroaching developers who want to take away his house. In response, he ties thousands of rubber balloons to his house, and floats it away, hoping to relocate to a vista in South America where he and Ellie always said they would go.


            In tow is a fat little Asian Boy Scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who was on Carl’s porch at the time of takeoff, trying desperately to do his Good Turn for the day. The two of them do make it to South America, and accidentally get embroiled in a mad hunt for a rare bird that is being sought by Carl’s childhood hero Charles Muntz (probably over 100 years old at this point, and played by Christopher Plummer). Muntz also has a cadre of trained dogs at his disposal, who can talk thanks to mechanical collars. Eventually, there is a big mid-air showdown with a floating house and an enormous space-age zeppelin.


            I loved the characters so much, and was so in awe of the animation and of the opening storyline, that I almost thought it was a pity when the film became a grand action/adventure film. What started sedate and touching became raucous and rollicking. When the talking dogs began showing up and giving us cheap drool jokes, I groaned a bit; the low elements seemed to mismatch the high ones. In a film with such believable characters, why did we need such oddball, unbelievable elements like talking dogs?


            From there, I only began to question the physics of it all. Why does Carl go from a man who needs to walk with a cane to a man who can run and leap like Indiana Jones? How is it that a house can be suspended by balloons anyway?


            I usually feel this away about most of Pixar’s films. Audiences love them, and critics frequently hail them as the Second Coming. I love each one of them, “Up” included, but there’s always some single element that holds the films back from being as good as they could be (“WALL-E” had a strange second act, “Ratatouille” had obnoxious human supporting character). Pixar has crazy quality control and consistently put out fantastic movies, though, and just because ”Up” may not be on my year-end list of the best of the year, doesn’t mean I won’t recommend it heartily to everyone.


            Please do see “Up” if you haven’t already. See it in 2-D if you can, as the 3-D will only be, I imagine, distracting.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 12:52 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “WALL-E had a blah blah blah blah”

    No, not really. WALL-E had an excellent 1st, 2nd, and 3rd act. All of which made you think. All of which served the story. All of which were just as perfect as the last and people just complain about the second half in order to have something negative to say about it despite knowing there’s nothing negative worth saying. The problem? Most likely it doesn’t fit the trope “true art is angsty”. Since the second half has *gasp* colors and *gasp* a happy ending it’s somehow worse than the first. BS, people just don’t recognize the subtleties and prefer to just parrot whatever some random critic has said about the second half.

    • The curse of the critic, or any critic worth their ink (pixels?), is that, despite whatever popular opinion may be, they must be honest about how they felt about a movie. Many critics were uncomfortable with “WALL-E’s” tonal shift, and I was amongst them, despite what many people felt. I did not feel there was any angst in any part of “WALL-E;” it is not an angsty film.

      You can read the full review on this very site.

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