Post all reception and critical reviews for Up here. =)
UP got Harry incredibly UP!!!
Masterpiece is such an over used phrase when it comes to PIXAR – because if very nearly every film is either almost a masterpiece, a simple masterpiece or a heartbreakingly brilliant masterpiece – the meaning is drained from the word and the only adjective I’m left with to describe one their films is to simply state… it is a Pixar Movie – and that carries the weight of its own realized expectations.
UP isn’t quite the film that I thought it was. About 4 days ago – an Austin friend ran into me at CHUYs after she had gotten into the UP screening – and stated how much she was looking forward to it, but she was slightly nervous having seen the 45 minutes we’d seen at BNAT over 6 months ago. What if it doesn’t live up? And all of a sudden a thought hit me. What if they kill Carl? The old man. What if they build that character up and kill him?
I got nervous. Very nervous. In the first 45 minutes – I had already formed an attachment that made me think of Carl as an amalgam of my own father and grandfather – and are they going to carve my heart out? Will they kill every boy & girl’s grandfather on screen and force the little kids to grapple with the weight of simple mortality?
Worse. Will they reawaken that fear in me?
PIXAR films flirt with dangerous territory, but often guide us in the general direction of security and the hope of a happy ending. However, there was something about that first 45 minutes that had me feel that there could be a dark twist ahead.
And I was right about the dark twist, only… not exactly, but incredibly satisfied.
CARL is an old man. He comes from a great generation – having had a long and happy life with the woman of his dreams. Now he’s on his last days, he feels alienated by the world beyond his house. Closed in by the booming society that has supplanted his old neighborhood in lieu of skyscrapers and suits. His life has apparently been fairly uneventful, but filled and powered by childhood dreams.
You remember those. The dreams you had as a child that perhaps many of you followed for an indeterminate period of time, before realizing that you didn’t have the math and science to be an astronaut – and the space program has never been as ambitious as a little boy’s dreams… at least it hasn’t been since I was a small boy. In the contest for tickets – I had people that dreamt of being comic artists, film critics, torch singers in smoky clubs, Pixar animators, archeologists, President and so on. There were the folks that wanted to bio-engineer dinosaurs and mythological creatures, that wanted to be bit by a radioactive spider or realize that they came from the planet Krypton – and in a lot of the replies there was a sadness about themselves. Even though they were many youngsters – much younger than me – they already felt the compromise of a realistic life. A life where bills grow, accidents and health create debt and jobs can be lost. But they’re also blessed with families they love, a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife – and they’ve found a life they love that they couldn’t have dreamt of as a kid, because kids rarely dream maturely.
I know this seems off topic, but in reality – the first 45 minutes deals with a lot of these sorts of issues. It does it with an economy of exposition that will shame most every screenwriter in the business. They show us life, rather than explain it. They show us love, regret, ambition, loss and the power of dreams without ever verbalizing a single conversation. It is… frankly humbling.
There are no long pointless sequences that abandons our main characters in place of a pop culture gag that does not advance the story – and frankly – that’s the biggest difference between PIXAR and just about everyone else. They understand humor inherent to the material and the story – and they realize that it is all about buying into these characters – and that the character isn’t just Carl Fredricksen… but little Russell – the Wilderness Explorer looking for his ASSISTING THE ELDERLY badge.
In the first 45 minutes, I didn’t know if I believed in his character or not. I was fond of him. I liked him, but I wondered if he was ever going to be more than his uniform and age. Would they explore what makes the sidekick character need a side to kick from? Yes, they do. And it isn’t a softball pitch either. It has the emotional resonance every bit the equal of Mr Fredricksen. There’s a reason behind this boy’s passions – and a reason for his over-compensating need to please. And it absolutely makes the film soar higher than it’s fictional house and balloons.
The structure of the film is based in many ways upon two of my favorite RKO films that were filmed concurrently. KING KONG and THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Even though the first act plays much more like the first act of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Like KING KONG – it takes our characters about 45 minutes to get to the “island” or the “Escarpment” that this film has as its reality based fantasy locale.
In that 45 minutes – they introduce our main characters, create their initial bonds and conflicts – and gives them a reason for their adventure. In this way – it also reminds one of THE WIZARD OF OZ – especially with the montage STORM sequence that is very very evocative of that classic Tornado sequence – minus silly things going by the window.
Once they reach the Escarpment – they find they’ve landed in an area on the opposite side from where Carl’s wife had dreamt of their “club house” being – and suddenly Carl and Russell must FITZCARRALDO that house to its proper place. Along the way they meet an amazing bird that Russell names KEVIN and a talking dog that informs him that his name is DUG – voiced by UP writer and co-director Bob Peterson with sublime perfection.
And it is that much that was screened at BNAT in rough story board, early rough animation and some close to finished animation. Finished – this period of the film has introduced us to our main characters and our place of action and purpose of action. In very nearly the next scene – we’re introduced to a whole lot of conflict and a great deal of unforeseen situations.
My favorite of these involves the other human character of the vanished great explorer that Carl worshipped with his wife… CHARLES MUNTZ – voiced by Christopher Plummer – but evoking a visual check from Kirk Douglas by way of Leslie Banks’ Count Zaroff. Like in that last reference’s movie – there’s a point during dinner where everything about the direction of the film turns. And it does turn dark.
Not so dark as to warp children – but definitely it turns into a film where life is risked and lost and it is tense as hell. Spoiling the last act of the film would be a crime. Mainly because it unfolds so beautifully, so perfectly that it just makes you cheer. There really seems like there’s nothing left unexplored – and I can’t believe just how good it all comes together.
Many people were critical of the last act of WALL-E, and while I get what they’re talking about – I disagree. The last act of UP is supremely entertaining in the kind of way that the last act of MONSTERS, INC and FINDING NEMO and TOY STORY 2 end. The relationships and situations are all absolutely earned through the empathy that the film builds with the characters, the economy of exposition and through tension.
In fact – the dinner scene for some reason evoked the meeting scene in OUT OF THE PAST with Mitchum and Douglas… only imagine if Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau’s love child (Carl voiced by Ed Asner) was facing off against an elderly Kurt Douglas (pre-stroke). It is shot with heavy film noir-esque shadows and the nefarious reveal has the weight of that great turn scene of Count Zaroff. It is at this point that the film just doesn’t stop. Suddenly – we’re in full on chase/threat/rescue/hero/helpless/panic excitement mode!
Because you care about the characters I found myself near breathless through these action scenes, which have the gleeful invention of a great Nick Park action sequence!
After the film – the audience was glowing. It was as if each and every last one of us were 3 feet tall, tiptoeing into our childhood living room on Christmas morning and found our heart’s desire with a big bow on it and with balloons! Lots of balloons. This film isn’t a specified fetish film like MONSTERS, INC, THE INCREDIBLES, WALL-E, CARS, TOY STORY, A BUG’S LIFE or even RATATOUILLE. This is a human adventure primarily – without the obvious childhood fetish item. The fanciful elements concern talking dog collars, giant crazy bird critter and a balloon powered floating house. Otherwise – you’re dealing with humans – humans that have been hurt, have desires, motivations and problems. And nothing could be better.
With STAR TREK, UP and DRAG ME TO HELL – this May we have 3 completely different types of perfect BIG films. And I’ll be damned if I can figure out from a single viewing which I love most! And that is something I find incredibly fortunate to be afflicted with.
That I’m talking about KING KONG, OUT OF THE PAST, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, FITZCARRALDO along with the best of Pixar’s films… well it tells you how fondly I regard this film. Pete Docter has made another incredibly wonderful PIXAR film!
P.S. I’ll be writing a separate piece on PARTLY CLOUDY, the short film that preceded the feature later tonight… possibly. It is possibly the most iconic short they’ve yet made. But like I said – more on that later!
I’ll be DOWN for 4 long months before I finally go UP!
Nordling kicks back on the porch of Carl Fredrickson’s floating house and also takes a look at new Pixar short PARTLY CLOUDY!
You can’t trust me on a Pixar movie. You just can’t. I’m saying that right out because at this point, I hold that studio in such high esteem that it’s difficult for me to imagine a better run of films by any single creative force. Miyazaki, maybe. Spielberg from 1975-1987. But even those two have some clunkers in there. Pixar has none, not even CARS, which instead of adoring I merely like a lot. And now we come to their 10th film, UP, directed by MONSTERS INC.'s Pete Docter, and their new short, PARTLY CLOUDY, directed by animator Peter Sohn.
I actually have no business writing this at this time. I should be holding it back, taking stock in the film more, and writing a more reasoned review later. And I’m trying to pull it back some, and I refuse to play the “Where does it rank” game with Pixar’s other films. I think they’ve made enough films now that to rank them at this point seems a little bit unfair and even a little insulting. But since I’ve seen the first 40 or so minutes at BNAT 10 this year, I’ve had some time to think about how this film was going to work when it was released, and even thought about how it could seriously fall on its face. I wasn’t worried, because I freely admit to a Pixar bias. But it was still something to think about.
The opening cartoon that plays before UP, PARTLY CLOUDY, perfectly fits into the themes of the larger work. It’s a short about beginnings, while UP is about the autumn years, and they both feature clouds pretty prominently, but that’s about all I should say about PARTLY CLOUDY at this point. Think old Merrie Melodies and you might get the idea. It’s not very long. It’s not very complicated. And it works.
After the Pixar logo, we go right into an old newsreel, featuring great adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Muntz explores the world on his blimp, Spirit of Adventure, searching for strange creatures far and wide. When he discovers an unusual bird skeleton in South America, the scientific world considers him a fraud. Muntz vows to go to Paradise Falls to bring the creature back and clear his name. Watching this newsreel is little Carl Fredrickson, and he excitedly runs home, playing his exploring adventures in his head. As he walks past an abandoned house, he hears the voice of someone inside playing the same adventures he is. Inside is Ellie and she yearns for adventure just like Carl does. They hit it off instantly, and through a montage, they fall in love and get married, always vowing someday to go to Paradise Falls. But life seems to get in the way, and they settle down quietly into the rhythm of their lives. Then Ellie passes on, and Carl (Ed Asner, who’s wonderful), alone, begins to take assessment of his life.
Stumbling into this story is Russell, a Wilderness Explorer who needs that final badge - Assisting The Elderly - before moving up the the upper levels. All Carl wants is to be left alone, but Russell insists, so Carl sends him on a hunt for the mythical snipe. Outside, a construction crew knocks over Carl and Ellie’s mailbox, and Carl overreacts, hitting one of the crew with his cane and hurting the crewman’s head. Forced by court order to go to a nursing home, Carl has one last adventure up his sleeve. He will honor Ellie’s wish, and go to Paradise Falls, and nothing’s going to stand in his way, even with Russell tagging along.
By now you’ve all seen the trailers, the balloon house, the birds, the dogs… and you might have some idea where this movie’s going. What Pete Docter does so well, as he did in MONSTERS INC., is make you relate to the characters and understand their situations. UP has a wonderful economy with the story it has to tell. It wastes little time getting to Paradise Falls and the story propels at a surprisingly fast pace, and yet the filmmakers know when to stop and take a moment for the characters. Carl’s story is especially emotional, and anyone with a grandparent will probably get their tear ducts put through a ringer a couple of times. Russell also has a nice story arc, and I appreciated that he’s not just a token kid in the film but a character that helps Carl discover aspects about himself and the relationships in his life. When it’s revealed that Muntz is still alive in Paradise Falls and still in pursuit of his bird - affectionately named Kevin by Russell - Carl becomes the most unlikely hero and he knows what he must do. Muntz reminded me very much of Charles Foster Kane crossed with Howard Hughes. There’s a lot of film references in UP - from WIZARD OF OZ to KING KONG to CITIZEN KANE to even a tiny bit of STAR WARS.
But don’t worry if you think the film might be too sappy or dramatic. UP may be one of the funniest Pixar films yet. The dogs are simply comic genius. Their dialogue is very stream of consciousness and spur of the moment, and I imagine some of their lines are going to be repeated all summer. I’m not going to spoil any of them for you here - the laughter in the theater at each line of dog dialogue is such a ringing endorsement to the script (by Bob Peterson) that I’d be a real jerk if I repeated any of them. Dug the Dog is one of the most endearing characters in the Pixar lexicon, and Alpha, the head of Muntz’s dog army, once he speaks… well, it’s somewhat like Vader on helium, and the way all the dogs are used in UP blows away anything you’ve seen in CATS AND DOGS or other talking animal films. Not to ruin anything by talking shop, but the Paradise Falls dogs are practically begging to be marketed.
What didn’t I like? Not to spoil too much, but I was unpleasantly surprised by the resolution of one character - it didn’t seem to fit the whimsical nature of the film. But even then, it’s left up to the audience to interpret what happened, and I may be looking too much into it. I love the balloon house, but after a point it literally becomes a drag on the film and the characters. Even so, there’s a thematic point to it so it’s not any kind of deal breaker.
Pixar doesn’t make drop-the-kid-off films. They make films that are meant to be shared by the whole family, and I’m not just talking about parents and kids, but grandparents, grandchildren, the whole brood. There’s a bunch of films coming this summer, and I intend to see most if not all of them. But I’m going to return to UP. For one thing, I didn’t see it in glorious 3-D, and you can bet that’s going to be remedied. And I’m going to bring my mom along, and my daughter… and everyone else in the family if I can. Pixar films have a way of plugging right into my heart, and UP is certainly no exception. I can’t wait to see it again.
What didn’t I like? Not to spoil too much, but I was unpleasantly surprised by the resolution of one character - it didn’t seem to fit the whimsical nature of the film. But even then, it’s left up to the audience to interpret what happened, and I may be looking too much into it.
I hope that it’s not the death of a character or something. I often see that as a really lame solution for things in movies.
“Extending the patented Pixar mix of humor and heart, Up is the studio’s most deeply emotional and affecting work.”
TIME is officially on Up train. By Richard Corliss, who never can hate anything Pixar.
The reaction on other movie sites is really great. Tonight has another screening. Hope all will turn into big money.
JD beat me to it. I just sat down and read Time (hard copy) and wow, what a great, thorough review. There are a few minor spoilers (the general outline of the movie) but unless you want to know absolutely nothing, it’s definitely worth a read.
Richard Corliss brings up one particular scene, and the music used there:
“[spoil]This series of vignettes is played without dialogue and underscored by Michael Giacchino’s wistful waltz. It’s the sweetest, saddest 4 1/2 minutes you’ll ever see on film.[/spoil]”
…and let me tell you, I remember recording the music for that scene, and everyone in the room felt the exact same way, even though it was our job and we had seen it a bunch of times by the end of the day. I’m really looking forward to seeing the entire movie (I know a lot of people have seen it already in screenings!)
By the way, in the print edition of the review, there are also some smaller pics showing some of Pixar’s best buddies (Woody & Buzz, Wall-E & Eve, Mike & Sully, Marlin & Dory, and Carl & Russell). 4 of the 5 pics are online, but online they leave out Mike & Sully…
A Review of Disney/Pixar’s Up
posted by Keith, 10.32 AM
by Keith Staskiewicz
Directors: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Runtime: 104 minutes
Distribution: Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar has always been in the business of telling human stories. Woody and Buzz were toys, but their struggles with friendship and their fears of obsolescence were instantly relatable. The Incredibles may have been superpowered but their insecurities were all too real. Ratatouille’s Remy the rat embodied every underappreciated artist, Marlin the fish every overprotective father, and WALL-E every hopeless romantic.
In their latest venture, Up (in theaters May 29th), Disney/Pixar finally sheds these anthropomorphic and archetypical avatars to tell the story of Carl Fredrickson, an old man who lived a very average life. After his wife passes away, he decides to realize their dream of moving to the wilderness of Venezuela, and so attaches a kaleidoscopic squadron of balloons to his house to float up and out of his urban environs. Of course, unbeknownst to him, he has himself a stowaway in the form of a chipper young Wilderness Explorer named Russell.
They make it to South America, but must trek through the jungle and mountainous terrain to make it to Paradise Falls, on top of which Carl and his wife always hoped to live. On the way, they find themselves embroiled in scads of adventure of the deliciously pulpy variety, with sneering villains and giant dirigibles, but even as the story gets increasingly outrageous and the action more intense, the characters remain firmly grounded in reality. They are beset by packs of vicious dogs, dangerous thunderheads and a series of precipitous heights, but the real obstacles they must overcome are those of loss, abandonment and fear. Carl is one of the most three-dimensional 3D-animated characters ever put to screen. That, plus the fact that much of the violence is surprisingly un-cartoony, provides the film with quite a few moments of genuine peril.
The odd couple humor and the never-too-late moralizing one would expect are there, but, as per usual with Pixar, things are much more complex and satisfying than at first glance. The house, at first a symbol of untethered possibility and hope, quickly becomes a burden, loaded down with nostalgic and metaphorical weight as Carl gradually realizes that achieving his lifelong dream may not be as important as the life he spent dreaming it and the people he dreamt it with. Co-directors Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) and Bob Peterson provide some emotional moments, but they always feel more genuine than saccharine, and while it is easy to identify early on the talismans that will later be reaped for full sentimental effect, by the time it reaches that point, it’s been earned.
Up is above all a film that revels in visual storytelling. Like Pixar’s previous robotic protagonist, the young Carl at the start barely speaks, and an early wordless montage guides us through his entire life with tremendous poignancy and economy. The premise and locales allow for some breathtaking imagery of the helium-buoyed house floating across azure skies and over jutting geological landscapes. Once people start talking, the humor is enjoyable and the voice-work all top notch. Ed Asner imparts his character with a Lou Grant lovable gruffness, while Jordan Nagai’s lack of professional experience helps to give the young Russell an endearing layer of believability.
Admittedly, some of the action scenes are not as exciting as, say, those in The Incredibles, but that is kind of the point. Here, a life of exploits and derring-do is no more valuable than one of picnics and morning rituals, and if you are so focused on what you are going to do, you tend to lose sight of what you’ve already done. Up is a vibrant and adventurous film that, all the while, advises us on the unexpected beauty of mundanity and the fact that home has little to do with location.
Roger Ebert’s first thoughts on the film. He hates 3D. Anyway he likes the film.
I wonder if anyone has cried sentimentality manipulation already yet. Some people are just so cynical to enjoy a Pixar film.
He likes Pixar too. Anyway I’m surprised that with many screenings already the story hasn’t been spoiled yet. I should stop reading from now on.
Sorry for the double post, but review from Variety is up (with spoiler):
Depending on what you think of “Cars,” Pixar makes it either 9½ out of 10 or 10 for 10 with “Up,” a captivating odd-couple adventure that becomes funnier and more exciting as it flies along. Tale of an unlikely journey to uncharted geographic and emotional territory by an old codger and a young explorer could easily have been cloying, but instead proves disarming in its deep reserves of narrative imagination and surprise, as well as its poignant thematic balance of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled. - Todd McCarthy
From The Hollywood Reporter:
Winsome, touching and arguably the funniest Pixar effort ever, the gorgeously rendered, high-flying adventure is a tidy 90-minute distillation of all the signature touches that came before it. - Michael Rechtshaffen
Update: 6 reviews listed - 100% fresh
Holy cow - 100% Fresh!!! Sweet!
It premieres today @ Cannes…so I’m sure we’ll be seeing A LOT more reviews coming up.
Update: 11 reviews listed and still 100% fresh.
I’m so pleased that the reviews are starting off really well! I hope this trend continues- I want Up to compete with Star Trek in terms of success on Rotten Tomatoes.
I’d pay less attention to the tomatometer (which is great) and more to the average rating. Anything at an 8.0 or above on RT, from my experience, is usually terrific. Most Pixar movies cross it (exceptions include Monsters, Inc. and Cars)
I don’t know if I start to take it for granted but +90%/8.0 RT score is like duh! You know someone has to give it a bad review, but then it doesn’t matter. So I only care about a couple reviews, and until Cars 2 I don’t think there’s any interesting change of Pixar average RT score.
I’m more anxious about its box office number. All those Wall Street “experts” will gang up on it if it makes less than WALL-E and I’m sick of “Pixar is on decline, $7.4 billion wasted” brouhaha.
The perfect run of reviews is over, as the Wall Street Journal didn’t like it.
Ah, but then who cares what accountants think anyway…
Metacritic are dragging the ball on this one - they haven’t listed a single review yet.
Anyway, here’s the link for when they get their act together.
Yeah, unfortunately I’m going to have to add to the currently very, very small list of slightly negative reviews…Was reading The Independent today and there was a nice double page spread with a big picture of Russell and Carl and it was basically an article about the Cannes film festival, focusing on the 3D aspect.
There was also a review underneath and Up was given three stars out of five- not terrible, but not great in comparison to their previous reviews of Pixar films. Pixar was hailed for their use of 3D but apparently the action sequences aren’t brilliant and the characters are ‘stereotypical’.
I’ve only skim read the review as it seems to reveal a few spoilers, but if you’d like to read it for yourself, here’s the link- Independent Up Review.
But then again, the article refers to Up as a ‘cartoon’, so part of me really wants to take it with a pinch of salt. I am pleased that Up is getting some exposure though- it’s being released so late in the year that I’m afraid people will forget about it over here if the advertising campaign isn’t effective.
“UP” IS a “cartoon.” This is a wonderful thing! I’m glad Pixar is making Cartoons.
No one else is.
Sadly, articles like this show just how lost many reviews “UP” may get in this venue. These people are in Cannes to see DOZENS of films, of which “Up” is only one.
This reviewer seems as if he’d revel sitting through a torturous Lars Van Trier film, or worst yet, a heap of steaming doo like “City of Lost Children,” just for fun!