Film Review – Pixar’s UP

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I finally had the opportunity to catch Pixar’s latest work – Up. As a fan of Pixar from their very first movie, Toy Story, I had every intention of catching this in the movie theaters but various reasons prevented me at first. When I was ready to go, it had been playing for well over a month and I figured at this point, I should just wait till it hit the cheap movies. So I started waiting and as summer wore on, I continued to wait; sure that if I gave in, it would move to the cheap movies the next week and I’d be out the extra six dollars I would pay to see it in the first run theater. My patience was rewarded and this past weekend Up showed up at the local cheap movies. :)

Final Series Score: 12/12 – Perfect
Rewatchablity: 5/5 – Very High; After watching Up, I had to restrain myself from buying tickets to the next showing
Ending: 4.5/5 – Sublime; Everything you want in an ending, it had
Animation: 5/5 – Epic; Pixar continues to show why they’re the best American animators
Pros: Epic character development, more epic character development, even more epic character development, engaging storyline, sweet likeable characters, a real bad guy, was able to balance the serious with the funny and not have either feel wrong, a fulfilling ending
Cons: none

Story

As a young kid, Carl Fredricksen fell in love with the idea of being an explorer and going to the far corners of the Earth to discover the unknown that still existed. This love never diminished and lead him to finding the love of his life, Elie, who shared the same passion. They swore that one day they’d go to Angel Falls in South America but life got in way (as it always does) and before Carl realizes it, he’s a widowed and lonely old man. Before his sorrow and old age totally crush him, he decides to go on the trip that Elie and he could never get to and so starts a wonderful and exciting adventure full of surprises.

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Thoughts and impressions

I remember reading an interview that John Lasseter of Pixar gave about the success of their movies back many years ago. At the time, CG animated movies where new and Pixar were pretty much the only people that made them in America. In the interview he disagreed with the idea that it was the CG that made Pixar’s movie great – it was their attention to developing memorable characters and the telling of a compelling story with these characters that made them successful.

Every Pixar movie displays this philosophy to a varying degree and I can’t help but notice that the better I like the movie, the better it showcases this philosophy. A movie like Cars ranks at the bottom because of my ambivalence towards the main character and his problems. On the other end of the scale, my favorites, Toy Story (1,2) and The Incredibles, have the memorable characters and compelling story. In the case of Up, I almost immediately got vibes that it could become one of my favorite Pixar movies because the subject matter is so different from the standard that it just had to have something interesting to tell. So, against this stiff competition and big expectations I have of what it means to be a Pixar film, I sat down in the movie theater hoping for a winner.

By the 20 minute mark of Up, I’d witnessed what has to be one of the greatest feats of character development in cinema history. It should not be possible to condense a person’s life into so short a time and leave the viewer with such a deep understanding of that person that when Carl suffered a trying hardship, the viewer cried tears as if it was us that experienced this hardship. If pressed to compare this to some other show, I’d say take all the feelings that one would have over episodes 11-21 of Clannad ~After Story~ and condense them down into 20 minutes. The result wouldn’t be a perfect match but it would give you an idea of the experience.

From there the movie moves onto Carl going on his adventure and I don’t want to spoil what happens but I want to mention that I disagree with some of the critics that would like to dismiss this part of the movie as being poor. They say it’s childish, implausible, shallow, etc. and I say they miss the point. The child-like desire to explore no matter the consequences, to thrill in the sheer wonder of seeing something new and to revel in knowing your alive and being able to appreciate the little things is exactly what Carl needs at this point. The concerns of being an adult have nearly crushed him and it’s only when being around a kid and letting it rub off on him can he return to being human and can find some happiness again.

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One of the things that I generally hold against 3D CG animation is that almost no one seems to be able to make it look stylized like hand drawn 2D animation. Pixar, at times, seems like the only one willing to but some style into their animation and change up this style to match the material. Up continues this by stylizing it’s people but at the same time working this stylization into the show so that the viewer has to actually look for it. For example, Carl is drawn as if he’s made of stone, a very square stone with all his corners being perfect 90 degree angles. You’d expect him to say, “It’s clobbering time.” Or they wanted to convey the idea of the lawyers being soulless machines in one scene so they were given a body shape that looked like a 1950’s movie robot that was made up to look streamlined and they didn’t draw the mouths. Their where touches like this all throughout the movie and I’m sure I missed some because Pixar did a good job of getting everything to feel like a cohesive whole.

I’m trying to think of something else to talk about without spoiling things and I think I’m about tapped. If I was in the spoiling mood, I’d talk about how I really enjoyed the plot twist that forced Carl to pick between two options as to what was most important to him or why it’s a good idea not to meet certain people. Instead, I’ll close by saying that if for some reason you haven’t watched Up yet, your missing a truly great movie – easily, one of the best movies of 2009.

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