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Friday, September 25, 2009

A review of Pixar's Up.

Here's another quick review that I wrote recently for my course:

As I walked out of the mid-afternoon showing of Pixar’s latest sure-fire winner of the Best Animated Film category at next years Oscars, I was left with a slight feeling of, dare I say it, disappointment. The worst part was that I wasn’t entirely sure where that disappointed came from. Up had everything that I have come to expect from Pixar: the lush, at times breathtaking animation; the well rounded characters; the faultless voice actors; jokes that work for people of all ages; the simple but effective plot and, of course, oodles of heart. How could I possibly be left disappointed by so seemingly perfect a piece of filmmaking?
A few hours later and after far more time spent dwelling on my feelings about the film than is probably healthy, I came to a surprising conclusion: Up is a wildly uneven affair. Of course, it’s uneven in a way that only a Pixar movie can be. It’s not that the quality of the film fluctuates wildly between being good and bad as much as that it fluctuates between moments of mere (very) goodness and moments of jaw-dropping, knock-you-on-your-ass perfection.
Much like Wall E before it, the opening sections of the film are, in every sense of the word, wonderful. I challenge you not to have a big goofy grin on your face as our, at this stage, young protagonist watches a film about his hero, a dashing adventurer before he goes on to meet a fellow young adventurer wannabe: the girl who would become his wife. As if this wasn’t charming, funny and heart-warming enough what follows is a profoundly beautiful five minute, dialogue-free montage that charts their relationship over the years. The sweet, tender notes of, mark my words, this year’s very best film score emotionally punctuates every scene as we see the couple growing old together with all the joy and heartbreak that that entails before our protagonist finds himself as a directionless, lonely old man.
What follows is a grand sweeping adventure as the old man sets off with an unintended young stowaway in tow to embark on one last adventure to find the mythical Paradise Falls. The rest of the film contains everything from exotic creatures; embittered, old adventurers; great set pieces and a flying house kept afloat by a few thousand balloons but the only times the film really matches its opening minutes are when it turns its attention to the relationship between the old man and the young stowaway and, most profoundly, as we watch our old protagonist find new purpose and meaning in his autumnal years.
Up is, in the end, a film of two halves, one that will resonate most with adults, the other clearly aimed more at kids and the young at heart. That the two halves of the film are both separately so good makes it an easy film to recommend to people of all ages but this isn’t quite Pixar at its age-gap-balancing best.

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