Sunday 11 October 2009

Review: UP

Year: 2009
Director: Bob Peterson & Pete Docter
Screenplay: Bob Peterson & Pete Docter
Starring: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai

Plot Synopsis is here

I'm not sure I've said it in my blog yet but I'm sure I've said it in real life; If mainstream Hollywood absorbed half of what Pixar does with every one of their films, then I would be in cinematic heaven. For me it's gone beyond how colourful there movies are, or how great the animation is. Their movies are now nothing short of what I want from ANY film let alone a family film. Today I watched a film which had a montage with more emotion and pathos then the entire 166 minutes of Benjamin Button. I saw action sequences with more invention and thrill behind them than your Fast and Furious' and enough humor to stand against the so-called best comedies of the year. Even then there's more to UP than what I've just said.

It's is hard to top the films sublime almost wordless first act, which details our protagonist and his regret beautifully (it features two of the most heartbreaking moments I've seen in a family film in a long time) but UP manages to maintain it's emotional connection until the end due to Pixar's belief in character and story. These are characters that ring true even if it's they're talking dogs. The filmmakers firmly believe there's a story to be told about a 78 year old man and they believe that people will want to watch it.

This is a story with grand themes of mortality, loss and living your dreams with well rounded characters with real hopes, fears and beliefs. It doesn't insult the viewers intelligence and sell them short. It doesn't just want to tell you the story visually (which it does with aplomb) it wishes to truly engage you with what it has to say about life and the human condition. Human Condition? You may ask.But at times, if it weren't for the more outlandish parts of the film and the bright colours, this could be high drama. UP may be considered a "kids film" but it's one which is brave enough to deal with the death of a family member head on. I admire the films wish not to conceal aspects of life that we must contemplate one day.

But the humor! Oh the humor! Real gags with actual timing! With most family films wringing comedy (celeb) voices for cheap laughs or reverting to bland pop culture for easy jokes, it's just heartwarming to see a film that can make you laugh because the characters are funny. It's not forced, it feels very real. I laughed out loud....a lot. But UP is one of those films.

It's also one of those films that shows true talent within the craft. Co-Directors Bob Peterson and Pete Docter bring about a dazzling array of visual images (bizarrely reminding myself of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo) that aren't just pretty because of the animation, but because they're beautifully staged and full of creativity. For me the house being lifted by balloons will be one of the definitive moments of my cinematic year.

The voice acting is once again top notch which Ed Asner carries the film effortlessly. It's a voice that sounds familiar but isn't really. It's also a layered performance, one not restricted to just grumpy and scared but one which completes the characters poignancy. Asner is aided by the perfectly goofy voice of Jordan Nagai, whose first film endeavor is a lovable one. The villain of the piece is played by Christopher Plummer with a certain sleazy charm.

If I were to nitpick at the film it would be to say that the film is running on fumes slightly by the last act. Many might be a little dismayed by the films villain and how the the final showdown is a little anti-climatic. With this said Pixar have become bigger than simple films about good and evil. UP is a film about making sure that the life you live is one worth living no matter what happens. A moral that a child can truly take to the bank.

Hear more talk about this movie at Geekplanetonline