Up (2009)

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Oh, Pixar. You've given me another Wall-E. And that's not as good as you're likely to imagine. I thought the first half of this movie was beautiful and humorous and touching... and then the second half happened, Christopher Plummer started yelling at me... and I got bored. There are some wonderful moments in this movie; I just don't think it's perfect or evenly done. I wanted the whole thing to be as brilliant as the stair chair and the chubby kid's faceplant. But it's not. The whole second half felt like an overlong car chase scene. Personal disclosure: I don't like car chase scenes. They bore me. I was bored.


Show of hands, who thought the lead character in Up looked exactly like Spencer Tracey in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? And of those hands that are raised, who found this, really, really distracting? Because I did. I really, really did.

I didn't cry more during any other Academy Award nominated Best Picture nominee this year than I did during Up. Take note, I'm still of the sort that believes any film or piece of theater or song or painting or meal that can drive a person to tears is a great success. However, I also didn't roll my eyes at any other film nearly as much either... well, except for maybe Precious. Up is exactly the kind of movie we've come to expect from Pixar, nearly 2 hours of animation to give us the exact same message the last Pixar film gave us: "It's not too late to ________". Travel. Save the Earth. Become a chef. Free your goldfish. There's really not a lot to say about the film that one couldn't gather from the preview. It works. It works far more than most of the other nominees work, in that it kind of cruises along without making any strange turns, as far as animated films that are supposed to also appeal to an adult audience go. Little boy falls in love with little girl. They marry. Their attempts to travel to an exotic location are thwarted by life. Woman dies. Man, before being sent to a nursing home, ties thousands, MILLIONS of balloons to his house and then... I don't really know what happens anymore. There's a talking dog that likes to fetch. A boy scout. A colorful bird. An evil-doer voiced by Christopher Plummer (who's much better in The Last Station, might I add). Somewhere in the film, the man realizes a photo album that his wife maintained includes a secret set of pictures that he was unaware of (they're nothing provocative).

Essentially, Up is far better at connecting to its adult audience when it's attempting to, and far better at connecting to an audience of children when there's a talking animal on screen, which is a lot of the movie. But these small vignettes when Carl (our hero... although he might as well be called Spencer, for all I'm concerned) is either alone or solely in the company of another human being (Boy Scout Kid, Wife) are sort of... heartbreaking. They sort of remind you that its possible for cartoons to be for adults, to make you feel, if even just for a little bit. Up starts strong and ends strong with these moments, and brings in the dogs and the birds and the fart jokes and whatever to keep your kid still for a while. But when it worked for me, it really worked for me. When we weren't having fun and we weren't bouncing around... when we were just sitting still and talking to each other, Up really worked for me.


Up is a movie that puts many different original elements together in an interesting way with a heart-warming story line. The first half hour is truly sweet and interesting. An old crotchety man, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner), reminisces in a montage of his past life and romance up until when his life's love passes away. This segment is beautifully rich and brought a tear to my eye. The initial adventure to South America via floating balloon house continues to captivate. However, I think where this movie starts to fail is the during the main bulk of the film when the main characters trek across a South American plateau. This journey is filled with mediocre obstacles and several forced jokes. A lot of the problem is that we've seen this formulaic writing time and time again with Pixar films. Another problem I have with this film is that it follows two other true masterpieces of the computer animated film genre (Wall-E from 2008 and Ratatouille from 2007) without living up to its predecessors' standards. The musical scoring is pleasant, but unoriginal and repetitive, and makes me wonder why it received so much acclaim.

Despite its flaws, Up is a "safe" film which offers some very cute as well as touching moments. If you see one animated film from 2009, however, I would suggest viewing Fantastic Mr. Fox or Coraline. They are far better and more original.