By Leo N. Holzer
OK, “Up” just wrapped its opening week and the real debate isn’t whether the film is worth seeing — it’s whether it’s worth the additional charge ($2 to $5, depending on the theater and city) to see it in Disney Digital 3-D.I’ve seen both the 2-D and 3-D versions and now I’m here with my thoughts, likely to muddle the debate even more.
First, there’s a difference in the lead-in promotions. “Up” in Disney Digital 3-D offers audiences a teaser trailer for “Toy Story 3” in 3-D. By now, you’ve likely seen a 2-D version of it from the various links posted on the Internet, including here.
While it’s great to see the Toy Story gang all back together (and I loved Hamm rolling through the scene), it does little other than to remind us of those beloved characters and let us know about the film’s June 2010 release date. There’s also a new 3-D logo for Pixar, with P-I-X-A-R at an angle vs. straight on facing the audience.
“Up” as it is shown in traditional 2-D film format includes a wonderful trailer for “The Princess and the Frog,” reminding the audience of all those great hand-drawn films from Walt’s days to the resurgence of great Disney animation some 20-plus years ago in “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.
In addition, we get a few scenes from “The Princess and the Frog,” a glimpse of the voodoo villain, its New Orleans’ setting, the prince and Disney’s first black princess, who becomes a frog herself after planting a kiss on the toady prince. Talk about a fractured fairy tale. This holiday 2009 offering looks promising and we get a few laughs and more entertainment value than we do the 3-D “Toy Story 3” trailer.
Actually, I think it may have been a mistake not to prime audiences for the 3-D double-bill theatrical release of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.” Think about all those children who’ve yet to see Pixar’s first feature and its “more-than-equal sequel” on the big screen. Once they see some advertising or know about the special limited engagement, they’ll be a lot of them hounding their parents for the chance to see these two great films in Disney Digital 3-D.
Still, it’ll be interesting to see how well “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” in 3-D do at the box office given the millions of VHS home video and DVD copies out there. In this economy, how many people want to shell out $40 or more to take their family to see something they already have in their home video library or can rent for a few dollars?
Now, as to the feature presentation of “Up,” there really are things I liked about both.
As “Up” director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera told me, the 3-D is used to help support “feelings” and “moods” in certain scenes, much in the same way that Pixar uses colors, lighting, scene composition and the interplay of various shapes: angularity and squares vs. circles.
But, should you decide to pay the additional charge to view “Up” in 3-D, take a look at each lens in those special glasses. Hold them up to a wall or ceiling light source and see just how much of that projected image will be blocked from your eyes. It’s like watching a film wearing sunglasses, something that reduces the light by 20 percent or more and slightly changes the colors received by your eyes.
The scene with the reflected lighting off the balloons holding the house aloft is glorious in 2-D; a bit less so in 3-D. But then, the scene of the house flying above the city and rural landscapes seems a bit more special in 3-D.
While there are no “hugga bugga” moments to “sell” 3-D, its use by Pixar in “Up” seems appropriate and adds a bit to the overall emotional experience. Still it’s like adding 10 more pounds of muscle to a 300-pound gorilla which already has a knockout emotional punch.
If you can afford the “Up” charge, see the film in Disney Digital 3-D — it’s something that may be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate at home. (Can a Blu-ray set up be used to show 3-D films on your home theater system? I don’t know.) But if the additional $$ for everyone in your household to see “Up” in 3-D is money you’d rather spend on something else … that’s understandable.
We’ve been conditioned to watching the vast majority of Hollywood’s films in 2-D, so it’s not something like an air-conditioned theater and Dolby Surround Sound that we’ve come to expect just yet. Some cynics even think the studios are using 3-D as a carrot to get more theater screens to switch to digital projection, a “greener” and more economical way to deliver films to your neighborhood multiplex than big, bulky film cans.
Here’s something you might also want to consider: Check your area’s bargain matinee policies, which vary greatly from chain-to-chain and city-to-city. “Up” is being shown on more than 20 screens at least eight megaplexes within 30 miles of my home, including at least six 3-D screens.
Some chains have a special early bird matinee and then a couple of cheaper matinee screenings. Some chains also offer a special full-day midweek with reduced ticket prices. Some offer only one or two matinee-priced screenings per day, all showtimes before 2 or 3 p.m. — some are more consumer friendly. One chain, a favorite about 25 miles from my home, offers bargain matinees daily until 6 p.m. and then also offers a bargain price for Sunday night’s last show time, usually starting between 9:20 and 10:30 p.m. The bargain ticket price with the additional $3 3-D charge at my favorite multiplex was $10 per ticket total vs. $10.50 for a regular evening showtime ($13.50 for “Up” in 3-D).
Irreguardless of whether you see “Up” in 2-D or 3-D, count on a great time at the movies. Pixar delivers yet another wonderful film.
Maybe, after Pixar extends its string of commercial and critical hits to 15 or 20 films, the naysayers at the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere — expecting a flop with every new film — will be silenced. Maybe, a few rivals will take a good hard look at just what makes Pixar’s films so great — the emphasis on STORY, Story, story — and try to replicate that in a way that will benefit all filmgoers.