Thursday, December 31, 2009

Up-It Really Does Take You Away


It's been a while since I've been excited about animated movies. It's not that I don't have a fondness for the nostalgia of their brilliance, it's just that it usually takes me actually being in the theater to appreciate the childhood that I'm trying to suppress. I loved Wall-E. It's sheer filmmaking genius. I was finding it difficult to believe that it would be possible for the same studio to churn out 2 really good movies back to back; I mean how often does that happen these days? Maybe I'm just cynical, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But then I sat down in the theater for "Up". During the opening Pixar short, I could feel myself being reeled in. After the first fifteen minutes I could feel myself on Pixar's hook, an unwitting prey in Pixar's bid to fill the world with a little more life. And I was happy about it.

"Up" is the story of an elderly man, Carl Fredricksen, who believes all of his best times have passed him by. The story of his early life is told in short, sweet, beautiful images that make up those heart-rending first 15 minutes. The only thing he thinks he has left is his house, which is in imminent danger of being taken over by corporate greed. See, his is prime real estate for a new skyscraper. So what else is there to do but chase his one unfulfilled dream in any way necessary? That way, in case you haven't guessed by looking at the posters, is to fill as many helium balloons as necessary to carry him away, home and all. What he didn't count on was the inquisitive, young Russell who just happens to be caught on Fredricksen's porch...20,000 feet in the air.

What follows is an unlikely buddy story, with a dash of coming-to-age elements mixed in. There are moments of hilarity (who knew dogs could talk?), moments of sorrow, adventure, but what will stick with you the most, are the extremely beautiful images. Where "Wall-E" left an image of starkness, especially those sand-colored desolate first 30 minutes, "Up" seemed to have the theme "Color, color, you know what I need? More Color!", but none of it seems excessive. The beauty of the image is nicely balanced with the dialogue and story. In fact, had this not been an animated movie, there might be cause for concern because in real-life, there might not be any way to make some of the more serious scenes palatable. But here, Pixar captures a fantastic balance.

While, in comparison, I think I still like "Wall-E" more, Up offers a fantastic theater-going/film experience, a journey well worth its weight in balloons. After all, who hasn't dreamed of being taken away to a mythical land or an adventure that's waiting just on the other side of the clouds? Pixar and Disney have a knack at reaching to the deepest part of the adult's soul where the child can just barely be found. And they do it again here.

Overall 4.5 balloons

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