May 30, 2009

I'm Down

It is slightly ridiculous. I mean, seriously Pixar. What sort of crazy, voodoo, satanic, witch doctor, cult do you follow that allows to release such great movies one after the other, without making the same movie again and again? WHAT IS YOUR SECRET? Before Up, you had only released nine movies, and all of them were fantastic, with only Cars being slightly lackluster. Now, with Up, you have released ten movies, and all of them are fantastic, with only Cars being slightly lackluster.
Up is the story of retired balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, one of our fine country's senior citizens. He is leading a, somewhat, banal existence in his elder years. His loving tomboy of a wife, Ellie, has since passed on, seemingly taking all the joy and excitement from Carl's days. Though she may be dead, her spirit is constantly guiding Carl, making him urge for the adventure that he had dreamed of with her. So, under threat of eviction from his house, Carl takes a slightly unorthodox route in achieving said adventure. He ties thousands of helium balloons to his house and lifts off, steering his floating abode towards South America, the place where Elly had always wanted to go. Unfortunately for him, he is not alone. A tiny, rotund, Wilderness Explorer, Russell, has stowed away. Soon, they arrive in South America, where they have to contend with a giant bird, a crazy Kirk Douglas look alike, and a talking dog with a strange likeness for squirrels. Like all Pixar movies, the story is very simple and elegant, but pull aside the kiddie cover and you will find depth, emotion, and originality far surpassing that of other studios. 
In terms of voice acting, Pixar is always second none. A lot of that is thanks to ridiculous quality of the animation, but I don't think I need to talk about that. Everyone knows how friggin' good they are at making animated characters seem real. Especially Carl, voiced by Ed Asner, with his head as square shaped as his glasses. He seems like a jerk when you first see him, but get to know him, you see a man who has lost his way, but who is really a lovable guy. The same goes for Russell, voiced by Jordan Nagai. At first glance, he is the annoying pre-pubescent boy who is there as comic relief. Pull back the covers and you see he is almost just as damaged as Carl, dealing with abandonment issues of his own. On a different note, Christopher Plummer is deliciously villainous as the, probably insane, explorer that Carl admired as a child, and battles with as an adult.
There is one thing that makes Up stand out as good time at the movies. Every Pixar movie has one. In WALL-E, it was the irresistible love story between WALL-E and EVE. In Finding Nemo, it was Dory. In The Incredibles, it was the concept of superheroes being forced to retire. In Up, it is Dug, the talking dog. He steals the show in every scene he is in. Voiced by Bob Peterson, Dug is an idiot who finds that one nerve that makes us laugh and mercilessly attacks it. With lines like, "Hi there. My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you. My master is a good and smart man who made me this collar so that I may talk, because my master is smart. SQUIRREL!" or, "My pack is not following us. Boy, they are dumb.", it is hard to not at least crack smile. And good luck not chortling at him when he is forced to wear the "Cone of Shame". You'll see. 
Up is not the best movie that Pixar has created, however. It has its problems. The third act relies a little more on action then anything else, and the way some of the characters behave is suspect. But, at the end of the day, we all knew it was never going to trump WALL-E. It will take some bonafide master piece to derail that movie from my mind as the best animated feature ever created. Nevertheless, Pixar once again shows us how pathetic attempts by other filmmakers are to conjure up emotion in the audience. All you need is a good story, fleshed out characters, some neat visuals, a funny dog and your set. Up is not the best Pixar movie, but it is 10 million times better then almost all other animated movies from any other studio. You can't beat those odds.   A-  

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