Sunday, 9 October 2011
Up; CGI animated adventure comedy, USA, 2009; D: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, S: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Christopher Plummer
Carl Fredricksen, a young boy, considers Charles Muntz, an explorer who is searching for a ostrich like blue bird in Paradise Falls, in South America, as his idol. He meets a girl, Ellie, who is equally obsessed with exploring. Her dream is to place her house above the Paradise Falls one day. With time, they get married, discover they cannot have kids, but never have enough money to finally visit those waterfalls. When Ellie dies, Carl stays alone living in his house as an old man. However, by attaching thousand balloons, he is able to fly his home to the Paradise Falls, discovering that a little boy, Russell, accidentally boarded his home. Once there, they prevent Muntz and his horde of dogs from enslaving the giant bird, returning home.
Winner of the Oscar, Golden Globe and a BAFTA as best animated film, Pixar's "Up" is a critically acclaimed, but overhyped achievement: whenever it tries to be emotional, it is brilliant, but whenever it reaches for comedy, it is silly and naive. The opening act is fantastic, for the first time trying to actually grasp a dramatic story for the Pixar studio: in a grandiose montage, without any dialogue, it encompasses the whole life of Carl, from his wedding with Ellie, through the time when she gives him a hint that she wants to have a lot of kids (a very subtle and delicate scene of them observing the clouds, which suddenly "transform" into a dozen babies) up to her death, easily transmitting the feeling of deep happiness and then deep sadness to the viewers, cleverly establishing themes of transience and lost dreams - and actually bravely putting an old man as the main hero, untypically for a CGI animated movie. Even the sequence where his house is flying has some surreal merits and details, though it has so more plot holes than cheese. However, once the South American segment starts, "Up" is lost. It does not know what direction it should take, whether it should be a "Looney Tunes" cartoon or not, it looses its subtle touch with silly attempts at humor and ideas that border on "Gummi Bears" (talking dogs (?), a giant ostrich like bird...) and too sugary characters, inevitably wondering off into standard mainstream territory for a big budget animation. It is understandable that director Pete Docter and Bob Peterson wanted to establish Russell as an extension to Carl's nonexistent family, yet the action finale is nothing new, just typical cliche, until the ending when "Up" finally returns to its roots and again finds the right frequency of a more elevated entertainment.