Thursday, July 02, 2009

Pixar's "Up"

In an effort not to have another ridiculously long film update, this will be a short one. Two films recently watched.

The impetus for this update is primarily my disappointment with Pixar's latest....

Up (2009) dir. by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson


Yes, I said "disappointment" and "Pixar" in the same sentence. Trust me, I'm as surprised as anybody.

Basic plot: A young boy scout, Russell, in pursuit of his "Assisting the Elderly" badge befriends an elderly widower, Carl, and they set off (via Carl's house suspended by thousands of helium balloons) to achieve their respective dreams of adventure.

[WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead]

The beginning is perfect. How Pixar can make you care deeply about a character even though she only has a precious few moments on screen, much of the time saying nothing.

The entire montage showing how the realities of life sometimes get in the way of our dreams is completely relatable and endearing. Absolutely classic Pixar filmmaking.

Everything was great until you realize that Russell and Carl have suddenly arrived in the vicinity of their destination only a few minutes (of film time) after their departure?


I really think that Pixar should have drawn out the flight of Carl and Russell. I mean, the house being suspended by balloons and taking flight was the hook of the entire ad campaign: the teaser trailer, the poster, everything...and then their flight is over -- almost as soon as it begins? And for what? An on-the-ground, jungle adventure that we've all seen countless times before?

Like Russell and Carl, I found myself in "uncharted territory" when I began questioning plot points that Pixar asks the viewer to simply accept.

In some ways, for Pixar, this is nothing new:
I know that toys can't talk and move independently.
I know that monsters do not pass from one dimension into another using children's closet doors as portals.
I know that sharks don't join 12-step programs.
I know that rats can't cook, let alone control the actions of a human by pulling on their hair.

...but Pixar tells me these things and I believe them. I'm along for the ride, wherever they want to take me.

But with Up, this time, was different.

I found myself thinking about Russell's parents/caretakers. They never wondered where he went? It must have taken days to get where they were going. And with Carl's recent run-in with the authorities, you think he isn't going to have serious charges waiting for him when he gets back?

And Charles Muntz, the explorer who inspires the very young Carl to seek out adventure in the first place? How old is this dude at the end of the movie? 95? 100? Older? And yet, we see him running jumping and fighting like a teenager? Even if I force myself to somehow buy that, Carl is presented as a slow-moving, cane-using, feeble old man. While all of that adds to his charm as he is introduced, Pixar casts aside many of his physical limitations when it suits them to do so. To this, I think even Carl himself would say, "Bahhh!"

Dogs play an important role in the second half of this movie. I know many dog owners who seem to enjoy nothing more than anthropomorphizing their canine companions. Some pretend to "understand" what their pets are "saying." Okay. So maybe it's not too much of a leap to pretend that a technology could be developed to interpret and vocalize the communications of dogs. But now they're flying planes? In formation???

I SHOULD NOT BE ASKING THESE QUESTIONS, EVEN NOW. Let alone while sitting in the theater watching the movie. A PIXAR movie!

And yet...there I was...trying to figure out what was happening.

Don't get me wrong. Up is hardly a bad movie.

I have extremely high expectations when it comes to Pixar films which have always been met or exceeded. So I found myself shocked to come away feeling otherwise. Frankly, I think that if this movie had been made by Dreamworks Animation or Fox, I would have been thrilled with it.

So I guess it has as much to do with me and my expectations as anything, which often turns out to be the case, I find.

Regardless, I have no regrets that this was Harrison's first movie in the theater.

He did great. One much-needed potty break about halfway through for both kids, but otherwise they sat and behaved and watched the movie.

Also seen:

There Will Be Blood (2007) dir. by Paul Thomas Anderson

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