Sunday, August 9, 2009

Another Win for Pixar

Grade: A

It may seem silly to write about Up now, when it's been in theaters for over two months and probably all of you have already seen it. I saw it a month and a half ago by now, so it's not even fresh in my mind. But now that we're in to summer's final month, I realized I had to say something about the summer's best movie.

Why #1? I have to say, it's largely due to a single sequence at the very beginning of the movie. You know the one I'm talking about. That five minute, largely silent sequence that shows the entire relationship between Carl and Ellie, from first meeting to Ellie's death. Not only is it beautifully done and leaves everyone a bit teary, but by the end of it you know everything you need to know about Carl. Before the plot begins and with only a few words spoken, we know Carl better than we know most movie characters after 2 and a half hours.

Which is why Up proves Pixar's crazy success and universal lovability is not due only to its impressive animation or even its choice of stories. Whether rat, fish, toy, or talking dog, Pixar is incredible in its ability to develop its characters, making you care very deeply for that hunk of metal with a thing for Barbara Streisand or, here, the old man who takes his house with him on an adventure to South America.

Carl's hardly the only standout character from Up. After launching his house in the air via a few thousand balloons, Carl soon finds a co-pilot in Russell, a Boy Scout who inadvertently tagged along for the ride. Russell could easily have been the typical annoying little kid, so the fact that he remains likable is to the movie's credit. But the best is Dug, a talking dog they encounter upon landing. With a collar that lets him speak everything he thinks, including every squirrel-shaped distraction, Dug provides the movie's best humor.

If talking dogs seems like the stuff of kids movies, it is. Even with all of its adult themes, Up is a big step back towards pleasing the young ones after the far more adult Wall-E. Also, I'm not sure the extra $4 for 3-D was quite worthwhile, since it was there more for texture than to really give a 3-D experience. I still wouldn't say Up is Pixar's best film (that would be Wall-E or The Incredibles for me), but certainly top echelon. By combining fun, Lost World-style adventure with effective emotion and solid humor, Up ranks top for the summer.

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