The NYT used to be my go-to site for movie reviews, but of late I find myself bored with their determined cynicism. However, I do have to agree with Manohla Dargis’s summary of Pixar’s latest creation: Though the initial images of flight are wonderfully rendered…the movie remains bound by convention….This has become the Pixar way. Passages of glorious imagination are invariably matched by stock characters and banal story choices, as each new movie becomes another manifestation of the movie-industry divide between art and the bottom line. Well, I’m not sure I’d totally agree with the last assertion, but I do know that the movie left me flat after a glorious beginning.
What I liked: A 78-year-old main character, Carl Frederickson, voiced by Ed Asner. A house propelled by thousands of helium balloons. Evocative music scored by Michael Giacchino, who also did the wonderful “Ratatouille”. The bird.
What I really liked: A beautiful, poignant beginning, showing Carl’s life with his beloved wife Ellie. The opening newsreel, which brought to mind nice memories of “The Incredibles”. The phenomenal colour palette.
What I didn’t like so much: The opening short (“Partly Cloudy”), which was very underwhelming. A descent to rather tedious action once they reach Paradise Falls and an underdeveloped villain.
What I really didn’t like. Charles Muntz’s dogs with electronic collars that give them human voices. Very, very tedious.
I have to keep reminding myself that although Pixar films work for both adults and children, they are aimed first and foremost towards the latter. That being said, I firmly believe it is possible to craft meaningful, original, thought-provoking children’s films that are consistent in tone as “Up” was not (see Brad Bird’s “The Iron Giant”, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”, or Michel Ocelet’s “Azur & Asmar: The Prince’s Quest”). Lately, Pixar’s films have started on very high notes but left me feeling flat, and the knowledge that their next few projects include a “Cars” sequel leaves me quavering.
But then again, it’s their fault for setting such high standards. Compared to the vast majority of animated films, not to mention films, “Up” is a bloody good movie. I saw this in our local theatre (it just arrived) with a 5-year-old kid and her mum, and young Jenna was so into the movie it was as entertaining as the movie itself. Maybe that’s the key. Forget that I know any better, and just go with it.
- Jean AAR