Genre: Kids & Family
Runtime: 1 hr 36 min
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Starring: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, John Ratzenberger, Elie Docter
Everything in Up has a superior alternative elsewhere.
Review by: TomElce
Added: 7 years ago
Up, the latest Pixar release, attempts to marry mawkish sentimentality with light humour in order to satisfy both its target audiences: the demanding adult and the hyper child. Problem is, the film comes the year following Andrew Stanton's sublime WALL-E, inspiring only a shrug of the shoulders when one considers how far Pixar's art has sunk with Pete Docter's (and co-director Brad Peterson's) film. Compared to WALL-E -- or even non-Pixar efforts like Monster House and Bolt -- the film simply doesn't satisfy. Docter and co. are simply going through the motions, re-packaging elements that have been met with indifference in the live-action form and banking on their studio's reputation to qualify an Oscar nom at the beginning of next year. This isn't to say that Up is a totally bad movie (it is quite good in spurts), but were it not made by Pixar, perhaps viewers and critics would be more willing to examine its flaws.
The opening montage relating the entire life of Up's chief protagonist Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) is the sequence everyone's been talking about, but even this scene doesn't deserve its raves. Pushing sentiment ad nauseum, it's almost as if Docter himself is physically poking you in the eyes with his broad attempts at soliciting tears. In part of this montage, the tried-and-only-sometimes-true act of describing shapes in clouds is repeated thick, and we can pretend its something spectacular this time around because it's a "feat of animation." The musical score that punctuates the montage is pitch-perfect, the introduction of Carl (as a boy) to his lifelong and then-perky partner is the best moment of this segment. The manipulative shot of Carl holding a balloon -- an unnecessary link to the story that follows -- is the worst.
Now an old man, Carl is facing the prospect of living out the remainder of his days following an inadvertent stike on a construction worker. Rather than leave his home, he sets out to fulfill a promise he made to his now-departed Ellie. Using a giant rainbow of inflated balloons, he (and his house) takes to the sky en route to a natural triumph named Paradise Falls. Obliviously, he's taken on some "much-needed" comic relief in the form of a tubby Asian scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai), whose attempts to qualify for his final badge took him under Carl's home moments before the defiant old man soured into the skies. So begins a mix of maudlin drama and hyperactive comedy.
It has been suggested elsewhere that if 2008's Bolt were a movie by Pixar Animation Studios, it would have met higher praise than it did and probably won an Oscar. Up highlights audiences' continuing willingness to overlook the flaws in their product to adhere to the silly suggestion that anything the studio behind Toy Story and The Incredibles makes turns to gold. Not nearly as unbearable as Cars, the movie passes for watchability when it should be sky high in its achievements. When Carl and his junior companion reach Paradise Falls, the film should become wondrous -- the opportunity for greatness surely opens up as soon as they sorta-set down. Alas, the alternately perilous and perversely humorous sequences between Carl and Russell set onboard the house-as-zepellin prove to be the best (the most emotionally impactful and simultaneously funny scenes). When they arrive at their much-hyped destination the filmmakers pile on the usual garbage we've become familiar with -- comic relief talking animals, a hero-cum-villain that affords Carl his last-act conscience crisis and an uninteresting subplot centering around a "Snape."
Everything in Up, unlike with the standard-setting Toy Story, has a superior alternative elsewhere. Hayao Miyazaki movies deal with themes of spontaneous flight with far more craft and wonder, Bolt portrayed talking animals with far more wit and nuance, The Red Balloon beats Up's standout moment (the house being ripped from its roots by the mass of coloured balloons) with its beautiful end, and Peter Jackson's excellent revision of King Kong showed what could be achieved in the setting of a lost island. Take away these less-than-complimentary comparisons and analyse Up's efforts by themselves and what you find is that the film simply cannot blow you away. Emotion is laid on thick and comedy is too broadly in-your-face to inspire a great number of laughs. The most notable innovations the otherwise exceptionally-animated movie gives us is the re-introduction of blood into the animated form and a climactic face-off between the villain and hero that thankfully takes a different route than the bad guy simply changing his ways. Sure, Up is the best story about an emerging friendship between a widowed old man and an annoying young boy you'll see all year, but that doesn't warrant such wild hyperbole.