Up (Movie Review)

Up

Pixar is widely regarded as the best animation company around. They've made nine animated films over the past fourteen years, and every single one of them ranges from great to excellent. Up is their tenth film, and it really pains me to say that it's not their best. Not because I was expecting it to be their greatest, but because up until the final movement, I was convinced that it very well would've been.

Up tells the story of Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner), an elderly balloon salesman who was once happily married to his childhood sweetheart, Ellie. They both grew up together and shared the same spirit and longing for a life of adventure. They also shared admiration for Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), a world famous adventurer who disappeared in South America after the scientific community debated one of his discoveries. In the meantime, Carl and Ellie grew up, married, and made plans to visit a remote Venezuelan Eden called Paradise Falls. Sadly, their plans were never fulfilled and Ellie passed away comfortably of old age (Presumably. Remember, this is technically a kid's film). Carl now lives alone in his dusty house, with nothing but memories of his deceased wife and the sounds of adjacent construction sites to keep him company.

With time taking its toll on the poor lonesome man and the thought of entering an old age home ever present, he ties thousands of balloons to his fireplace and takes off for Venezuela. Not so much for adventure - he thinks he's too old for that - so much as for peace and quite in the world he's been dreaming of. Naturally, these plans are foiled by an overeager well-to-do wilderness scout (a trait that must compensate for some incredible thickness) named Russell, who was under Carl's porch searching for a pest during lift-off. What escapades will our intrepid heroes endeavour upon? Sadly, not quite the variety I had in mind.

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Don't get me wrong, the preliminary journeys through the new environments are all well and good. Splendid even. Up begins leisurely and enjoyably, not concerned with speed or urgency, and this laid back and casual approach to adventure is great fun to experience. Watching Carl and Russell deal with an eccentric and colourful wild bird is hilarious. Carl wants nothing more than to get to Paradise Falls (they landed a few miles off), and Russell is determined to keep the creature around as a companion. The fun ramps up considerably when a strange dog with a gadget laden collar that allows him to speak joins the trio on their adventure. Up ticks along at a perfect pace and everything thus far has been fantastic. Then the third act hits, and things take a sharp turn for the questionable.

Before I move on, let me take a brief moment to praise the music. Michael Giacchino returns as composer and delivers some of his best work to date. He's written excellent scores for Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and recently Abrams' Star Trek, but what he's done with Up is simply the best. This is largely due to Ellie and Carl's theme, which provides surprising weight for the entire film and is remarkably affecting.

Normally, Pixar films are a happy marriage of subtext and entertainment. However with Up, Pixar have rested a bit too comfortably on the three act formula. They dive for the heartstrings (an instrument they've become virtuosos with I might add), explore and meander in adventure rather joyously, and then the necessity of an antagonist slaps the audience in the face and the entire film is brought down to a level almost common. Perhaps I should explain...

Having a villain is fine, but Up, much like Wall-E, is a film that doesn't exactly need one. Many Pixar films have their evils to overcome such as Chick Hicks in Cars and Skinner in Ratatouille, but those characters were antagonists out of a character deficiency and not in the "evil for the sake of evil" idea (Chick Hicks wanted to win a bit too much and Skinner wanted control of his restaurant. These are understandable). Muntz, however, is evil for the sake of evil. At the risk of spoiling too much, there is a scene towards the end of the movie where Muntz not only proves to be terrible, but flat out sadistic.

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It should go without saying that a fair bit goes wrong in the third act. Not so much in the requisite problem/solution mould, but in the poorly executed villain and some less than stellar plot choices. Actually, as much as Pixar is famous for building fantastic beginnings, I can't help but notice that they're starting to struggle with their endings. Take, for example, the three most recent Pixar films: Ratatouille began to drag, Wall-E traded in subtlety for flash and noise, and Up decided to create a character ripped from Roger Moore era Bond. In the first two instances, they're far more forgivable, owing more to a matter of personal preference and not so much anything wrong with the film as a whole. However with Up, it really feels as though it's something fundamentally wrong in the core of the story. There's a distinct moment where Carl realizes that his childhood hero is a big game hunter just a teensy bit on the evil side. The screen darkens, the music becomes ominous, the antagonist narrows his eyes, and it's at that precise moment you realize that Up has shifted into the wrong gear. Pixar masterfully danced on the fence between seemingly kiddie fare and weighty plots and characterizations. If only for the time being, they've fallen off and landed on the wrong side.

But much like how Carl Fredrickson manages to pick himself up and dust off his clothes, so too does the film redeem itself in the final moments. It's thankfully a very fitting ending, but sadly the film is still undermined by some rather glaring missteps.

Though despite the disappointing developments in the third act, I am inclined to be sparing in my criticism towards the film. Not so much because Pixar is the only thing good and righteous left in this world and I will defend the company to the death (though I'd be lying if I said that weren't a factor), but because it must be understood what Pixar is trying to accomplish. As far back as Finding Nemo, and most certainly with Wall-E, Pixar has moved beyond the need to cater to children alone. However Pixar will always make films with that audience in mind and fill them with the necessary subtext to keep more mature audiences entertained. It's a juggling act, really. Cutting edge animation and appreciable nuance wrapped in a kid friendly package. Occasionally they stumble, and sadly Up is an example, but they're still narrative masters and the best at what they do.

And if nothing else, we'll always have the animated shorts.

(I watched this film in 2-D, and I recommend you do the same)

Good review. Very well written, I really struggle to write as engagingly as this. However, I'm not quite sure what you were trying to pull off placing the music paragraph where you did, but I felt it broke the flow of the review. As you needed a paragraph to introduce your issues with the final act (which you lead into nicely at the end of the fourth paragraph) chucking in your views of the music in-between is pointless at best, as you'd just set the stage for your issues with the final third.

I'm not sure whether to suggest a section on the animation or not. The pictures more or less speak for themselves, and most people know what to expect from Pixar. However, a comment on how the animation compares to their previous films could be useful.

Also, I'm a very amateur grammar nazi, but did you use hyphen's correctly when you said " Not so much for adventure - he thinks he's too old for that - "? as that seems parenthetical and thus really should be contained between commas or brackets. It looks quite good, and it's one of the less well defined punctuations but I just felt it was worth pointing out.

I haven't seen the film, but surely this Muntz guy can't be as sadistic as Andy from Toy Story?

I need to watch more of Pixars films so I can deduce some of these common trends that everyone's starting to notice.

Great review, but he wants to go to Paradise Falls? I didn't know he was a Slaver...

pigeon_of_doom:
Good review. Very well written, I really struggle to write as engagingly as this. However, I'm not quite sure what you were trying to pull off placing the music paragraph where you did, but I felt it broke the flow of the review. As you needed a paragraph to introduce your issues with the final act (which you lead into nicely at the end of the fourth paragraph) chucking in your views of the music in-between is pointless at best, as you'd just set the stage for your issues with the final third.

I'm not sure whether to suggest a section on the animation or not. The pictures more or less speak for themselves, and most people know what to expect from Pixar. However, a comment on how the animation compares to their previous films could be useful.

Also, I'm a very amateur grammar nazi, but did you use hyphen's correctly when you said " Not so much for adventure - he thinks he's too old for that - "? as that seems parenthetical and thus really should be contained between commas or brackets. It looks quite good, and it's one of the less well defined punctuations but I just felt it was worth pointing out.

I haven't seen the film, but surely this Muntz guy can't be as sadistic as Andy from Toy Story?

I need to watch more of Pixars films so I can deduce some common trends that everyone's starting to notice.

I would only include a section on animation if I were able to compare the 2-D with the 3-D. Since I can't do that (at least not for a while), I decided not to bother. Besides, there's really no point in praising a Pixar film for animation since it's well known that they consistently outdo themselves.

I did feel that the music was worth mentioning, but unfortunately I added that paragraph as an afterthought. If it seems out of place, that's because it probably is. I had just made the thread when I realized, "Oh crap, I never mentioned Carl and Ellie's theme!" I know the paragraph is out of place, which is why I chose to introduce it as an aside and not merely pretend like there's nothing wrong with it. On reflection, maybe I just ended up drawing more attention to the fact that it's out of place.

I also picked up the habit of using hyphens and brackets interchangeably. I'm really not sure if there's anything wrong with my usage of them, so perhaps I'll look it up.

Maet:

I very much agree. I personally loved the movie overall, but Muntz's character and actions just seemed rather mature for a Disney/Pixar movie, especially since his intentions always seemed to be particularly murderous...

I don't want to spoil myself, so I didn't read about Muntz. So sorry if this doesn't really compare - but it's not like there weren't grisly, horrible deaths in most of the other Pixar movies:

Anyway, great review. I've gotta go see this sometime.

I've bookmarked this for a later time to read. Considering that everyone has been saying it's a good review, the chances are that I will enjoy reading this.

ThaBenMan:
I don't want to spoil myself, so I didn't read about Muntz. So sorry if this doesn't really compare - but it's not like there weren't grisly, horrible deaths in most of the other Pixar movies:

Anyway, great review. I've gotta go see this sometime.

While true, those scenes were appropriate in the sense that in the film's universe, that's just the way things are. The ocean is a dangerous place, humans don't care for rats very much, supervillains hate superheroes, etc. Those were hurdles that led to a specific goal and conclusion for the protagonists.

In Up, this isn't exactly the case. Once Muntz was clearly established as the insane villain, any present evil behaviour depicted seemed superfluous. The specific scene in question contributed very little except showing us what we already knew at the cost of making the audience ask, "wait, did he really just do that?" It's a scene that feels more at home in a film like The Incredibles rather than Up.

It's not a deal breaker though. The film really is excellent and the issue I brought up is still rather insignificant. It was just a means to express a few interesting thoughts I had.

pigeon_of_doom:
I haven't seen the film, but surely this Muntz guy can't be as sadistic as Andy from Toy Story?

I think you probably mean Sid, the one with the explosives and the psychopathic streak, rather than Andy, who actually owned the toys.

RAKtheUndead:

I think you probably mean Sid, the one with the explosives and the psychopathic streak, rather than Andy, who actually owned the toys.

Yeah, I meant the psychopath. Andy was just the only human name I remember from that film, and I assumed it would have been that of the maniac with the demented toys.

I'm looking forward to Up. Wall-E was my favourite Pixar film, and a contender for my favourite overall film last year.

Just saw it, and I have to say I absolutely DISAGREE with the above review.

It was an amazing movie and maybe that's just me because I can relate to all of the characters and the old man reminds me of my history teacher... But that's why they're reviews, OPINIONS and since your opinions are not the same as mine then I will ignore you.

EDIT: the only issue I had with it is that he has a cane, but later he's running around and seems to have no major problem with it.

Say Anything:

Definitely watch it in 2-D. I saw the 3-D version and besides hurting my eyes and causing that always unpleasant conundrum of wearing 2 sets of glasses, it just made everything look more fake and hollow. There was some beautiful landscape shots in the movies, ones I would have been certain were taken from actual video footage... if not for the hoakey 3-d saying 'this is fake. Enjoy some terrible forced perspective instead of a beautiful scene.' It isn't as if the movie has any scenes in it which are especially enhanced by the use of 3-d, either.

NoMoreSanity:
Great review, but he wants to go to Paradise Falls? I didn't know he was a Slaver...

I thought the same thing. Too much Fallout...

Anyway, good review, and a nice counter point to MovieBob's It's-the-best-movie-ever review.

Maet:

Say Anything:

Sure, he's a bit insane and extreme, but you say the movie "doesn't exactly need [a villain]", and that's not true. Just because you think he's a bit crazy and tasteless doesn't mean he shouldn't be in the movie. It seems like you didn't expect an actual baddie in a movie directed towards a younger audience or something.

Say Anything:
Sure, he's a bit insane and extreme, but you say the movie "doesn't exactly need [a villain]", and that's not true. Just because you think he's a bit crazy and tasteless doesn't mean he shouldn't be in the movie. It seems like you didn't expect an actual baddie in a movie directed towards a younger audience or something.

I'm not saying he shouldn't be in the movie. I'm just saying that it was possible for the movie to work with out him and that, for what it's worth, I thought he was poorly characterized. That I felt the villain exists because it was an obligation for the genre and not because it was necessary for what they were making.

I also don't think it's fair to say that Up was primarily intended for a younger audience. I'm not sure about you, but the theater I saw the movie in left the kids in the audience bored for the first third or so. I've always thought that there was a certain genius in Pixar movies in how kids will want to see it for the colourful action, and adults will want to see it for the story and narrative qualities. Almost as if Pixar films really do get better with age.

I saw this movie yesterday. I loved it so much, and the short at the beginning was awesome.

Say Anything:

Agreed. Also, Muntz was the antithesis of the movie's main idea. Carl's desire for adventure is based on a romanticized version of what an adventuresome life is like, one based on Muntz's newsreels. His revelation is that his personal relationships had more value than the glamour of world travel. Muntz places ALL value on glory, to the exclusion of relationships.

We're supposed to read Muntz as deranged for that reason. The aviation helmets that he collected from previous "thieves" indicate that Muntz has no potential for friends, only adversaries. He interpreted their various reasons for being in South America (map-making, botany) as cover stories for a plot to steal his specimen (This point may have been lost to some, because Carl and Russel really were hiding Kevin from Muntz). This is why, in addition to plot development, the movie needs Muntz; he is the classic character foil, the opposite of the protagonist while at the same time being what the protagonist is in danger of becoming.

Good review.... As always

I am really looking forward to seeing this. Was meant to see it yesterday, but... personal issues (sick). I was debating whether to see it in 2d or 3d and thanks to this review I've made up my mind :)

Great review. I'll have to see how it fleshes out with my picture of the film.

This movie was a lot better that I thought it would be.

I just saw it today. Excellent movie, as I expected it would be. I was really touched by Carl - he reminded me a lot of my grandfather, whose wife passed away quite young, in her 40's I believe. I'll admit that I got a little choked up when it showed Carl and Ellie's life together. So moving and sweet.

And after actually seeing it, I understand where you're coming from about Muntz, Maet. I agree, his actions were pretty exaggerated and forced, it seemed.

ThaBenMan:
I just saw it today. Excellent movie, as I expected it would be. I was really touched by Carl - he reminded me a lot of my grandfather, whose wife passed away quite young, in her 40's I believe. I'll admit that I got a little choked up when it showed Carl and Ellie's life together. So moving and sweet.

And after actually seeing it, I understand where you're coming from about Muntz, Maet. I agree, his actions were pretty exaggerated and forced, it seemed.

I agree with everything you said there. I was this close to tears at the beginning(I knew what was going to happen, almost made it more sad) and Muntz did seem kind of,

'Oh, hey, I am evil! I will kill you now because I am evil!'

Awesome movie though, but what else would you expect from Pixar?

Green-E66:

Maet:

I very much agree. I personally loved the movie overall, but Muntz's character and actions just seemed rather mature for a Disney/Pixar movie, especially since his intentions always seemed to be particularly murderous...

Cliff_m85:

Green-E66:

Maet:

I very much agree. I personally loved the movie overall, but Muntz's character and actions just seemed rather mature for a Disney/Pixar movie, especially since his intentions always seemed to be particularly murderous...

True. I believe that this was a meek experiment on Disney/Pixar's part to see how their fans would react to more mature subthemes, which has thus far garnered mostly negative feedback.

Green-E66:

Cliff_m85:

Green-E66:

I very much agree. I personally loved the movie overall, but Muntz's character and actions just seemed rather mature for a Disney/Pixar movie, especially since his intentions always seemed to be particularly murderous...

True. I believe that this was a meek experiment on Disney/Pixar's part to see how their fans would react to more mature subthemes, which has thus far garnered mostly negative feedback.

I've heard mainly rave reviews about the film and personally I can't find a thing wrong with it. As said before, Muntz is what Carl could become. I thought they handled Muntz's madness beautifully, starting with a basic beginning of his dog contraptions to where he obviously was so lonely in the jungle that he slowly invented talking collars. Everyone not canine he treated as theives, since his distrust of humanity and his living in the past keeping to a promise that didn't matter much warped him to "Heart of Darkness" proportions. The whole movie plays with expections and I think it works beautifully. It tackles what really matters in life, how we idolize heros to a much to large extent, not to mention how it subtly jabs at the main lesson which just tells us that the little things are just as special as the big things.

But I am biased, since I've seen the movie three times already and cried each time.

Cliff_m85:

Green-E66:

Cliff_m85:

True. I believe that this was a meek experiment on Disney/Pixar's part to see how their fans would react to more mature subthemes, which has thus far garnered mostly negative feedback.

I've heard mainly rave reviews about the film and personally I can't find a thing wrong with it. As said before, Muntz is what Carl could become. I thought they handled Muntz's madness beautifully, starting with a basic beginning of his dog contraptions to where he obviously was so lonely in the jungle that he slowly invented talking collars. Everyone not canine he treated as theives, since his distrust of humanity and his living in the past keeping to a promise that didn't matter much warped him to "Heart of Darkness" proportions. The whole movie plays with expections and I think it works beautifully. It tackles what really matters in life, how we idolize heros to a much to large extent, not to mention how it subtly jabs at the main lesson which just tells us that the little things are just as special as the big things.

But I am biased, since I've seen the movie three times already and cried each time.

I do not contest that the film was anything other than amazing, I've seen it twice and found my eyes glued to the screen each time. The only aspects of the movie that I question are the mature undertones.

In my opinion, Muntz heavily reminded me of General Zaroff from The Most Dangerous Game. While Muntz's primary intentions were not the hunting of people as a game, both characters lost sight of their morality due to their obsession with pursuing a target.

To me, this parallel appeared to be a bit too mature for a Disney/Pixar movie, especially when it is considered that the concept of miscarriage appeared in tandem to the aforementioned murderous intent. However, this foray into more mature undertones on Disney/Pixar's part could just be a sign of how the tastes of our youth are changing.

Muntz in retrospect is a rather anomalous villain in Pixar's series, but I think it's to reinforce how already visceral the characters are. It's an understatement that Carl is the most three-dimensional character out of any of this summers blockbusters so far.

Muntz is understandable to a point. Assuming that the film of Muntz that Carl watches as a child was recently made or even an old film, Carl ages SEVENTY YEARS between watching that film and evening coming across Muntz.

Muntz has spent nearly a lifetime in the company of just his dogs trying to catch Kevin. By means he should be a physical wreck and it's a slight plot hole but it validates parts of his character. He REALLY wants that damn bird. It's existence destroyed his reputation and his life, and by his age you'd want to at least get the bloody thing and show everyone that you weren't lying before you finally kick the bucket.

Pixar goes to far with some of Muntz's more questionable actions as a villain though. He steps over the line of "Antagonist you can understand and feel a bit sorry for" and straight into "Complete Psycho" and Up just doesn't suite that kind of villain. Muntz is essentially the only flaw with the film but he need not be. He could've still been a decent adversary that could endanger the heroes and bring them closer together without seeming so... cold.

a good review but i prefer the Bum Review

I felt the same regarding WALL-E.
It was great when there where just the two mute robots in the abandoned ruins of earth.
But as soon as the whole fat people space society enterd the stage it just lost it's magic.

 

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