Summer Film Series – Vol. 7, No. 2: UP
June 25, 2009 at Movies 14 in McKinney, Texas
When the first trailer appeared for Pixar’s latest film, UP, my reaction was, “Um… no.” I was thoroughly disappointed in the concept, despite the beauty of the film itself. A story about a cranky old man and his balloon-powered flying house didn’t have appeal. It seemed… weird. But because the film came from Pixar, and I have loved almost every film they’ve produced, I was willing to refrain from judgment until I saw more. It took practically a year for me to care at all about this new film, and that interest didn’t even begin to flame until it was released last month and some trusted bloggers began proclaiming its delights. Suddenly I found myself ready to take another Pixar journey, knowing full well that they would have to truly WOW me to overcome my initial reservations. In the end, I wasn’t wowed, but I did find enough joy in the film to not feel I wasted any money on the ticket.
The grumpy old man was successfully tempered by a nostalgic sequence involving the romance between him and his wife, including a montage depicting a full lifetime of being friends and spouses. This alone helped me care about the character and find him fun to watch. This also resulted in grounding the film when all of the quirky characters began popping up. A chatterbox little boy, a troupe of talking dogs, and a hugely colorful bird (in every sense of the phrase) often threatened to push the film over the top, but the determination of the old man to steer his home to a paradise location in South America kept the film from veering into too much camp. And that, for me, saved the film.
Visually, UP is everything I expected from Pixar: rich detail, stunning animation, and vivacious coloring. I’m sure the 3D version is remarkable. But I felt the film lacked the punch of previous Pixar offerings. UP is simply… sweet. A sweet film. Not a great film, and not a film I care to see again. But it was sweet and, at times, touching. I was disappointed, however, in how very “adult” the theme of the film was. It’s a story of love and loss and reclaiming dreams — concepts that hit the core of an adult much more readily than a child. This thought was underscored by the cinema full of children with whom I viewed the film; there simply wasn’t the same energy in the room during this latest film as I have witnessed in previous years. The kids did seem to enjoy it, but their laughter and their interest was only evident during the movie’s outrageous moments (almost entirely involving the child character, the bird and the dogs). Because these moments were fewer than any others in the film, UP did not come off as a movie made for children as much as it seemed a film for adults. And I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this. I was also extremely disappointed in Pixar’s decision to include a villain who, at one point, wielded a shotgun and fired it at a house with a child inside. It disturbed me to the point of questioning their judgment, and I’ve never questioned them before.
Ultimately, the film was a good Father’s Day outing for me and my dad. We enjoyed it but felt the same thing: this isn’t the best Pixar can do. Because my mother is not a big fan of animation, she chose to skip this one, and I never felt she was missing anything. Which disappoints me. I’m truly a fan of all Pixar has done and can do. I hope that next year’s offering returns to former glory and that they return their focus to children as a target audience. History has proven that Pixar’s films for children are just as enjoyable to the adults who accompany them, and there are very few moments of regret. That’s what I expect from Pixar.
film image from Rotten Tomatoes