Saturday, June 13, 2009

Up (Docter/Peterson, 2009)

I never thought Pixar would make a film worse than Cars, but a mere three years later, here we have it. Up is a gloomy, humorless, maudlin, coarsely manipulative turkey of a film. A grumpy old man teams up with an irritating boy scout and a slightly moronic dog to find a rare giant bird with an annoying shriek. Oh joy!

The film uses a montage at the beginning to set up the fact that the old man promised his wife that one day they would take an adventure to Paradise Falls. So then he straps a bunch of balloons onto his house so that they will carry him to his destination. So far, so good. Kind of like The Straight Story meet James and the Giant Peach. I can see the possibilities.

But then the film commits a fatal error by skipping right over what should be the most extraordinary part of the story. The journey. Within the film's first half hour, we are already within a couple of miles of the final destination. And while the old man's adventure will eventually become about something other than reaching the Falls, there is no excitement or emotional release to finding that this crazy plan has in fact carried him all the way to South America. It literally happens in an instant.

Instead of documenting adventures in the sky as the flying house slowly makes it way towards its destination, the writers have decided that it would be preferable to follow the old man on the ground as he walks the last part of the way tugging the floating house behind him with a garden hose, an absurd betrayal of any internal logic the film may have had. Now, before I am accused of not being able to suspend disbelief, let me explain. For the sake of a fantastic story, I am willing to believe that enough balloons can rip a house up from its foundation in good enough shape to travel a long distance. But when you tell me that an old man cannot walk up stairs on his own, yet has the strength to stop this same house on his own before it goes careening over a cliff, then you have ceased to make any coherent sense. You are lying to me in an effort to crudely manipulate my emotions. When a man is feeble when you need me to cry, strong when you need me to get swept up in the action, throws out his back when you need me to laugh, is slow or nimble whenever it suits your purposes, then you have failed to create a character that means anything at all to me.

So despite the fact that the balloons were able to rip the house out of the ground and carry it aloft, this little old man is enough to anchor essentially that same weight to the ground (give or take a few balloons that were cut away). And this same man who uses a cane is able to maneuver this bulk through trees without it somehow getting tangled up. Riiiiight.

Maybe this would be forgivable if the film was any fun. But it's not. Apart from the ever present specter of impending death, the film has little in the way of humor unless you are amused by the somewhat desperate convention of 'talking dogs'. It doesn't even have the beautiful visuals that made Cars at the very least tolerable. All in all, a supreme disappointment, a lazy effort, and to be honest, a grating disaster than I hope never to watch again.



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