Sunday, June 28, 2009


I just went to see Disney/Pixar's "Up". I had heard really good things about it, and since the weather was too hot to even bother doing something productive today, I decided to check it out.

Boy, was I impressed. I don't think I've ever seen a Pixar film that I didn't like, and this was no exception. For those who haven't seen it, I won't give too much away, but I will point out some highlights. The basic premise: an old man named Carl Fredricksen, faced with the prospect of being forced from his beloved home and sent to a retirement complex, decides to honor a promise he made to his late wife, Ellie. That promise? To go see Paradise Falls, a remote and largely unexplored wilderness in South America. A few thousand helium balloons later, Carl and his entire house are on their way to South America, unintentionally taking Russell, an eager young boy determined to get his next "wilderness Explorer Scout" merit badge, with him. What follows is a classic adventure story in which Fredricksen and Russell get mixed up in a conflict between Fredricksen's childhood idol, an exporer named Charles Muntz, and a rare and colorful bird dubbed "Kevin".

Muntz has devoted his life to capturing this bird, and has been camped out in the valley for many years with his trained dogs (outfitted with collars which allow them to talk), having vowed never to return to civilization without the bird. This would be all fine and dandy, until we realize that Muntz has gone a little the point that he's like Captain Ahab, Colonel Kurtz, and Wile E. Coyote all at once. All "Kevin" wants to do is be left alone to tend to her children (The bird's gender is not apparent to young Russell until later.)

"Up" is really a powerful little film not for what it IS, but for what it ISN'T. Like all of Pixar's best works, the film shines because of its respect and reverence toward its characters. They could have easily made the film tasteless and low-brow, with lots of "old man" jokes, fat-kid jokes and toilet humor. Instead, Pixar has made the characters as real as they can personality-wise, and any humor derived from Carl's age or Russell's chubbiness is logical and believable, rather than forced or cruel. Carl has a stiff back and walks with a 4-pronged cane outfitted with tennis balls, and Russell likes chocolate.
The real heart, though, comes from the backstory of Carl Fredricksen. The first 7 minutes or so of "Up", though it has very little dialogue, is as touching as anything you'll see on film, in any medium. Pixar are in a class all by themselves with their ability to take any digitally animated character, no matter what he/she is or looks like, and make them completely human and sympathetic.

Contrasted with the roughly 15 minutes of torture I endured via the previews for upcoming CGI/animated fare from other studios, that's truly a remarkable feat. Pixar has made another masterpiece, and the best thing the non-Pixar arm of the Disney empire can come up with for an answer is a preview for a movie about guinea pigs...with four, count 'em FOUR, poop jokes in less than one minute. Pixar has once again taken audiences beyond expectations. They've literally and metaphorically made it to Paradise Falls...and nobody else can catch them. Bravo, Pixar!

1 comment:

  1. Too bad there's people out there who think the complete opposite. But I digress...