Just last week I was opining at the death of exposition and the general sorry state of what passes for a screenplay these days (see my less than thrilled reviews of Terminator Salvation and the hugely disappointing Monsters vs Aliens). And then along comes Pixar to restore my faith in craft, character, storytelling, and well — filmmaking in general — talk about Salvation!
Up is everything one could want in a movie. It is charming, surprising, touching, and often stunningly beautiful to look at (with the most subtle and integrated use of 3-D yet in a movie). It’s also laugh out loud funny – with laughs genuinely earned through character and situation — not Dreamworks-style wise-cracking wink-wink in-jokes. And the movie is often thrilling! Did I mention it was thrilling?
God bless whoever marketed this film for not showing us almost any of the plot and thereby allowing the film to reveal its surprises in real time (instead of wringing the movie dry for the sake of the trailer.) And it IS surprising. The ‘concept’ made me think we were going to see sort of an Around the World in 80 days style adventure. But the writers actually have a theme they are invested in. This is not a film built around its spectacle — it has a warm, beating heart. The spectacle (of which there is plenty) is gravy! You’ll get no spoilers from me here.
And by the way — how often do you get to see a ‘blockbuster” these days about aging, longing, and lost dreams? Did it really take a “kid’s movie” to have the courage to focus a film around the regrets and loneliness of a 78-year-old man? I can imagine the studios tearing out their hair at a pitch meeting for this if Pixar wasn’t considered bullet-proof. And guess what? Despite its central theme, the kids in the theatre loved this film. This IS a film for ALL ages.
A success by any measure – Up is one of the best films of this year – and perhaps the finest film yet by the amazing folks at Pixar.