Friday, June 12, 2009

Up (among other things)

Okay, so yes, it's been months since I last posted a review. My apologies. But I couldn't let The Film Elitist go down without a fight, so here we go again. Hopefully there's still some people out there who will read this.

The last six months have been filled with a wide range of movies, from the sublime (Coraline, Star Trek) to the mediocre (Wolverine Origins, Knowing) to the absolutely abysmal (Terminator Salvation, Monsters V. Aliens). I Debated about trying to catch up on some of these movies, but decided instead to just charge ahead with what's knew. Suffice it to say, you should see the first two I mentioned, and disregard all the others.

So for my first movie back I'll be reviewing Up, the latest Pixar feature. For better or worse, I've come to expect a certain (almost unobtainable) level of quality from Pixar. Up, it turned out, fell short of that mark (albeit only slightly). Peter Doctor, one of Pixar's core creative team, took the reins in this unique tale- the first one he's helmed since Monster's Inc in 2001. It's certainly an original story, but also certainly not without his flaws.
Up follows Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner) in his golden years. On the eve of his commitment to a retirement home, he decides he must fulfill a long held promise of adventure. He fills thousands of balloons with helium (20,622 to be exact) and takes off with his house on his final big adventure. Unbeknownst to him, Russell (Jordan Nagai) an enthusiastic boyscout-esque Wilderness Explorer is off to share the adventure after being stuck on the porch of the house as it floated away. Fairly quickly they reach their goal (approximately) and it's a race for Carl to get the house to its final resting place before the helium runs out. Things are complicated however, with the appearance of an exotic bird, her hunter, and a lovable dog named Doug.

First of, it's Pixar, so naturally it looked gorgeous, and the animation was stellar. It continued Pixar's tradition of very realistically subtle animation, but included some wacky parts with the bird that were reminiscent of the Dodo from Loony Tunes.

My issues come from the story (and mostly not the story itself, but how it's executed). At the beginning of the movie we're met with a lengthy sequence outlining Carl's entire history. It's a beautiful montage, and I've heard of many from whom it extracted tears. However, it's a little overt. Within the first ten minutes we really know everything there is to know about this character. I don't like being told how to feel about a character. That is something that should be revealed over time, and it should be up to the audience to figure out throughout the course of the movie. I wouldn't lose those early scenes, I would just spread them out to break up some of the movie later on, and use them to explain events after they've happened, as a way to create dramatic tension, then release it.

The other part that I took issue with were some of the gags (notably vicious dogs with high voices). These were used over and over. I understand that things like gag recognition will hold the attention spans of young children, but these really don't help the movie. And things get really wild with dogs flying airplanes, and a pretty amazing aerial battle. Some of this could have been done without.

It seems this movie suffers from what all Pixar movies suffer from a little. It deals with some heavy subject matter, but also has to draw in the young-uns. It leads to a slightly schizophrenic feel, trying to balance these two ideas. It mostly does a good job, but occasionally leans too far in one direction or the other.


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