Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, 2009)


[Voices] Edward Asner (Carl Fredricksen), Christopher Plummer (Charles Muntz), Jordan Nagai (Russell). Screenplay by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter. Directed by Bob Peterson Pete Docter. Rating: PG. Running time: 96 minutes.

I’ve got to be careful here. 98% on RottenTomatoes – 100% counting solely the Cream of the Crop – is no mean feat. Up is universally hailed as a masterpiece, and yet, whilst obviously being equally quick to jump on the bandwagon of assigning the heap of words Pixar have now apparently patented: delightful, magical, touching and beautiful, I nevertheless have slight but significant reservations that taint my otherwise unreserved praise. I’m finding it hard to express, even in my own head, but there’s definitely something not quite right here that’s tugging away at me. Perhaps it’s merely the length of time I’ve wanted but failed to see it that has lead to narrow and cemented expectations that has meant its spontaneity and nature – that the trailer and plot synopsis never hinted at – is something I’m now finding hard to deal with. Perhaps it’s just my (worried) curiosity as to how children will interpret a film that, like Truffaut’s Pocket Money, lures us into a sense of security regarding the fun-nature of what should unfold before our eyes, and then plays with us and hints at actual danger. Whatever it is, the way Up sells itself as an adventurous bonding session between young and old as they travel with a firm destination in mind, and yet actually materialises into a dangerous chase against a rare rainbow bird poacher and his vicious dogs, is something that has thrown me slightly to say the least.

One way of looking at it would be as a fusion of the danger hinted at in Pixar’s most recent effort, Toy Story 3, with the abstract sets and landscape of WALL·E. The (important) difference is that this is happening to humans, and I’m therefore left not knowing how to feel. There seemed sufficient potential in the story as I’d conceived of it to supply all the emotions Pixar needed for a trademark film. As it is, this slips into another project which, whilst at times joyful (in particular towards the end), it is also occasionally mindless. This is very, very harsh, but in the name of not being a sheep I thought I’d emphasise what I felt that seemed unsensed anywhere else. Don’t let me fool you into thinking there isn’t still plenty to admire here. From the ever-vibrant colour palette (allowed for mainly by the array of balloons), to the well-developed and simply lovely two main characters, Up still has a solid grounding which it uses to literally propel us through cloud nine. But I remain convinced it loses its way just a touch. What should have been a subplot seems to have ultimately hijacked the whole adventure.

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