Saturday, December 12, 2009

Up, up and away

     The latest film from Disney / Pixar (Toy Story, Finding Nemo) is Up, which was recently released on DVD.  It was a cute movie, not short on humor or pathos.  But much of it did not live up to previous ventures.

     Up opened beautifully, with a long sequence featuring Carl (voiced by the wonderfully gruff Ed Asner) and his life with his wife, Ellie.  Like Wall-E, there was not talking in the beginning, just music and montage.  Pixar has proved that they do this well, and this was no exception.  Twenty minutes in, there were tears in my eyes.  All of that really set up the story, as Carl tied a bunch of balloons to his house, rather than go quietly into a nursing home, and set off to place it at Paradise Falls, a dream of Ellie's since childhood.  When several obstacles tried to prevent him from getting the house in place before the balloons lost helium, he ignored others' feelings and needs to try to satisfy what he thought of as a last tribute to his deceased wife.  It was sweet, if a bit short sighted, and that part of the movie was wholly satisfying.

     The end, too, was done right.  Carl needed to learn that others could care for him, and that he could still have a life after Ellie was gone.  While it was a bittersweet lesson, the ending again got me choked up, and things ended the way they should, albeit a lot more predictably than, say, Ratatouille, the 2007 film from the same company.  Still, making the obvious choice can be forgiven if done correctly, as the ending in this film was.  I'll even give them credit for creating a villain who was not entirely two dimensional.

     The problem with this film was the middle.  Yes, Carl needed to learn his lesson, but certain events to get him from the beginning of the mission to the end were just plain silly.  The dogs with the talking voice boxes, yes interesting and clever, but overused, especially in making Alpha's malfunction.  Some jokes were used over and over again until they were no longer amusing ("Squirrel!").  And why didn't Russell, a young boy who accidentally came long for the ride, have a worried mother mounting an all out rescue mission to find him?  The one scene we even got of her was her smiling on at the end as Carl played father to Russell.  Really?  Your boy disappears for an extended time to South America, and you're going to just let him hang out with the old man who took him?  It just shucked reality and sense a little more than other Disney / Pixar projects.  Also, the short attached to this one was quite a bit goofier, in a not so good way, as the other shorts released with Pixar movies, though it was still somewhat charming.

     Was the movie worth watching?  Yes, of course.  Pixar has yet to make a bad movie.  Will it be remembered as one of the studio's best?  Probably not, at least in my opinion.

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