Pixar soars again with Up
In the often disappointing realm of summer movies, there’s no surer bet than a new Pixar film. The studio behind WALL-E, Toy Story and Finding Nemo has never made a bad movie. Amazingly, they’ve never even made an okay movie.
I don’t consider it hyperbole to say that Pixar films come in two varieties: excellent and very, very good. Up represents the latter. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of its predecessors, but it’s still better than just about anything out there. Ed Asner lends his gravelly voice to the role of Carl Fredricksen, an aged dreamer who finds his beloved house squarely in the path of a massive new shopping center. Fed up with the constant hounding of the developer and his employees, the retiree decides on a novel way to fight the powers that be: He rigs his home with thousands of helium balloons and floats away in search of adventure. A cranky septuagenarian is an unlikely hero for a kid’s movie, but don’t let it preoccupy you. From antique action figures to sentient trash compactors, this studio traffics in unlikely heroes. Carl is just the latest, and he’s a good one. The film picks up with him as a young boy, thrilled by the exploits of explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) and his tales of Paradise Falls, a mythical spot in the Venezuelan jungle where time has been frozen for millenia. Carl and the love of his life, Ellie (Elie Docter) had a years-long dream of following in Muntz’s footsteps. But life got in the way, and Ellie died an old woman before they could make the trip (a story told in one of the most moving, bittersweet montage sequences you’ll ever see). The trip doubles as a tribute to his
recently-departed wife. Director Pete Docter hasn’t helmed a Pixar feature since 2001’s Monsters Inc., and fans of that movie will recognize a sensibility that is warm and fuzzy even by this studio’s standards. As he did in Monsters, Docter has made a film that is sweet but not cloying, uplifting but not corny. Up is unapologetically sentimental, but it has a sense of wonder missing from most kids’ movies these days, and that takes it a long way. It also bears mentioning that the film continues Pixar’s pattern of not talking down to kids. Up begins with a very sad death, and it weighs on Carl for the duration. The film doesn’t gloss over anything here — it confronts the pain of losing someone headon, but it doesn’t wallow in it. Instead, it uses the pain as a catalyst for a grand adventure, which could teach even young kids something important about the grieving process. It helps that Up is also quite funny, thanks in large part to Carl’s fellow travelers. Russell (Jordan Nagai) is a young scout angling for his “Helping the Elderly” merit badge, and pooch Dug (Bob Peterson) is a portly spaniel with a collar that allows him to speak. These two bring the laughs, as does tag-along Kevin, a massive bird that looks like a cross between a toucan and an ostrich. Up is thoroughly enjoyable, but it doesn’t quite have the constant “wow” factor of last year’s WALL-E, my favorite Pixar movie to date. That’s just personal preference, though — there’s virtually nothing this film does wrong, aside from dragging for a few minutes in the middle. It’s safe to say that if you like Pixar, you’ll find a lot to love about Up. It’s a tribute to never giving up, and everyone can get behind its central message: that you’re never too old to chase the end of the rainbow.
To comment on this article, send e-mail Glen Baity at glen.baity@ gmail.com.
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