Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My review of UP

When I heard the premise of UP – an irascible old codger befriends an eager neighborhood kid -- I thought, oh great, GRAN TORINO with balloons. But no movie I’ve seen in years is as original and touching as UP. Who knew the most heartfelt and heartbreaking sequence of any movie in years would be in a cartoon? But the montage of Ed Asner’s character, Carl, sharing a life with his wife Ellie is so beautiful, so powerful, so sweet, so emotional without ever once going over the top (not even for a single frame) that UP should win the Best Picture Oscar for that ten minutes alone.

Leave it to Pixar. Those lads know how to tell a story. The best screenwriting done in America right now features talking dogs and toys that come to life. The stories always track, they make sense, you’re invested in the characters (even if they’re robots or grumpy old men), and yet you’re constantly surprised and delighted by the sheer invention and imagination that greets you at every turn.

There is such attention to detail in behavior than any Pixar character (be it a car or a rat) is more three-dimensional than any character in any Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

I imagine the top paragraph makes UP seem maudlin and sad – an animated ABOUT SCHMIDT -- when in fact it’s a rollicking fun throwback to adventure movies and Saturday afternoon serials of the 30s. There are big laughs, thrills & spills, and here’s the best part: parents, you can take your kids to see this without wanting to put a bullet in your head! It’s your reward for sitting through HORTON HEARS A WHO.

Oh, and the animation is cool too. If Walt Disney were alive he’d be in awe of the craft, impressed by the storytelling, and probably the only note he’d give is in the scene where old Carl is sitting alone in his house after his wife has passed on, Walt would have birds and squirrels come in, clean the house, bake him a cake, and buoy his spirits by singing “This is not a morning for mourning”.

I unabashedly loved this movie. And judging by the trailers for the other animated features coming out this summer, see UP six times and skip the others.

39 comments:

Richard Cooper said...

Ed Asner is funny again? I will see this movie! Thanks...

...Also, Jerry Bruckheimer wants a word with you out back...

The Milner Coupe said...

Nice review. I look forward to seeing it this weekend.

Poor Bruckheimer. How could you dis the producer responsible for making even Pearl Harbor seem boring? Him and Michael Bay have figured out how to make movies with no storyline at all. Big booms, loud music, and the same 'actors out-running a fireball' scene are a sure recipe for ... eh... junk.

Go Pixar. Aloha

Debby G said...

I loved it too! The writing's great, the visuals are great, and Ed Asner is great.

As soon as it was over, my husband turned to me and said, "This should win the Oscar." It won't, of course, because it's too entertaining and upbeat, but it should.

And call me P.C., but I really liked that the main characters were an old man and a fat Asian boy.

And it had that nice message that being with loved ones was a life well-lived, but it didn't hit you over the head with the message either.

We took our nine-year-old to see it in 3-D, and I'd say 80 percent of the groups there were childless. I guess that movies are so expensive now, especially given the extra 3-D fee and the crappy economy, that most people with kids couldn't afford to see the movie.

Eileen Heisler said...

Spot on!
I cried about five times. Gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Get a damn clue, Richard Cooper. Ed Asner has always been funny.

Pat Reeder said...

Still looking forward to seeing this movie. I thought at first you meant that the old man was irascible, but then I remembered he was a cartoon, so he really is erasable.

D. McEwan said...

"Pat Reeder said...
Still looking forward to seeing this movie. I thought at first you meant that the old man was irascible, but then I remembered he was a cartoon, so he really is erasable."

Nice as the wordplay is, it's a CGI cartoon, so what he is is deletable.

Cezar said...

Horton was great.

Anonymous said...

goddamnit pixar, is this going to make me cry on the theater in front of my trendy friends who'll only watch it because it's "3d animation" so it's modern and hip? I hate when they do that.

Nikki said...

Yup. I loved it too. Pixar is now 10 out of 10. ON the website for the PGA Produced by conference I went to this past weekend they ave a little 10 step promo on how Pixar makes movies. I think anyone who hasn't seen it will enjoy it. John Lassiter and his gang seem to have it down.

pedant said...

Respectfully, it's 'irascible'.

Heidi Germanaus said...

After the first twenty minutes my friend and I were sobbing and she turned to me and said....

"What the hell man? I didn't sign up for all this. I thought this was a light hearted kid's movie".

But that's when the adventure kicked in. The animation and pacing were so incredible that I felt like I was on an old wooden rollercoaster. It's like I was on this amazing journey with them.

The colors of the balloons were breathtaking. They should have gotten an acting credit because they really were a character in the movie.

Not to mention the voice acting, dialogue and especially the talking dogs were PERFECT.

I loved this movie.

One critic said "It's a movie for adults that kids will tolerate."

I fully concur.Fabulous.

Ref said...

WV: CRUDSCAN = an afternoon at the multiplex.

Pat Reeder said...

To: D. McEwan,

But I've noticed that Ken has now deleted "erasable," which, although it screws up my punchline, proves that "erasable" is deletable.

Ta-da!

Anna said...

This WAS the best movie! You hit it on the head! Every time I watch a Pixar, I think it's my new favorite (I tend to go back to Monsters, Inc., though). And this was no exception -- amazing story, attention to detail, and it IS great for ALL ages!

Beth Ciotta said...

I'm a huge fan of Pixar. I've been wanting to see this movie and now--after reading your review, Ken--I can't wait! Looking forward to the inspiring experience.

Just Mike from Canada said...

Is it just me, or does everyone think that the old codger in this flick looks just like Spencer Tracy?

Also, I take it there is the death of his wife or something like that in the movie. Is that correct? My kids are still preschoolers, so I'm putting off dealing with that issue.

Mike

PS Wordcheck is mangerfi. That's the Internet connection used in Bethlehem.

Tom Dougherty said...

SPOILERS BELOW:

I loved it too, Ken. One thing that I think probably owes more to the long development process than the admittedly brilliant screenwriters is the subtle way that plot points are introduced early on in the film that pay off much later. One example for me was the leaf blower, introduced to clean the mailbox in the first ten minutes and later used to propel Russell to the villain's airship. Two great little visual gags, the second almost completely dependent on the existence of the first one to work.


A great film.

Michael T. said...

I cried like a little girl.

Kate said...

My face hurt afterward from grinning through the entirety of this movie.

Sebastian said...

Ken I hope you have seen all of Hayao Miyazaki's (Studio Ghibli's) movies because the maturity of "Up" has been done by Miyazaki for about two decades.

It's great that Pixar managed to finally get this kind of storytelling across the Pacific. "Up" is the kind of movie that gives every live action film a run for its money. It's to tear down the wall between animation and live action awards. There simply is no reason to not make this movie the best of the year.

John said...

Unfortunately, since the Academy introduced the "Best Animated Feature" category, it means "Up" is likely to win that award next year, and be totally ignored in the "Best Picture" category, since the nominating committee will figure they're already going to get the first honor, and there shouldn't be any Oscar double-dipping.

jeffhopkins said...

I'm a HUGE Pixar fan. I love their story-driven ethos and attention to craft. But this movie was not one of my faves.

The first half is a classic work of cinema that brought me to tears multiple times; beautifully rendered characters who were more believable and identifiable than any live-action film could put forth...but then...

It turned into Scooby Doo! A talking dog leads them to a cave with an impossibly elderly baddy surrounded by less-than-menacing evil dogs rendered in videogame quality? It just turned into a pie-fight with biplanes and blimps.

I love the characters they create so much in the first act, that I want to call social services and report Pixar for abandoning them in a meaningless romp that doesn't artfully further their development in the latter reels.

Pixar has fairly earned their reputation for quality. I'd like them to keep it based on quality, not running on fumes of Toy Story.

AlaskaRay said...

I agree completely. Great film. Ed Asner's character reminds me very much of my own father.

There have now been hit movies entitled UP, Down and Sideways. What's next, Diagonal?

Ray

WV: tomilogy - the scientific study of Mr. Hanks and Mr. Selleck. I can't wait to hear about the dissections.

Rockgolf said...

My four-word film review of Up:

Inflation causes housing crisis

K said...

The old codger looks specifically like Spencer Tracy in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER.

Jen said...

I loved, loved, loved, loved "Up." I saw it twice the first weekend, and cried both times. I also laughed hysterically, grinned and giggled.

The thing I love about Pixar is that they don't make kid's movies: they make good movies, which just happen to be animated and acceptable for children.

"Up" was absolutely the best movie I've seen all year - and I see a LOT of movies. (And not enough good ones.)

Alan Coil said...

I thought the old codger looked like Harlan Ellison.

*****

I saw it in 3-D, and felt the 3-D added little.

*****

Just Mike from Canada--don't worry about that aspect of the film. It's clear what happens, but it's mostly off screen. Pre-schoolers most likely won't get it.

Katy, Brian and Helen said...

Mike in Canada--My husband and I took our five year old to see "Up" in an old movie palace called the Pickwick in Park Ridge, IL. It was the first movie she had ever seen in the theater. Although we really liked "Up," it was too intense for our daughter--the dogs in particular scared her a lot, and she spent most of the movie in my arms with her eyes shut, only peeking at the screen when she heard us laugh. Katy

TimmieLongChevrolet said...

Midwesterners--do you recall "The Menards Man"? The jolly pitchman for the hardware/general merchandise store that looked like he might be John Madden's older brother? I'm just sayin'... At Mendards!

Richard Cooper said...

Hey Ken, I got grumped at by "anonymous" about Ed Asner being funny again! Cool...

Also, Jerry Bruckheimer is still waiting for a word with you behind the dumpster...

Fred Beiderbecke said...

Did you see it in 3-d? I thought you had trouble with 3-d. I have trouble with 3-d too and was wondering how it was.

Rockgolf said...

As was pointed out on Ken-Jennings.com, not only is the hero of Up Spencer Tracy, the villain is Kirk Douglas!

Verification:
OVEST - Life is peaceful there
OVEST - In the open air
OVEST - Where the skies are blue
OVEST - This is what we're gonna do

Alan Coil said...

Fred Beiderbecke--

I saw it in 3-D, and felt the 3-D was not necessary to enjoy the movie.

The new 3-D process works much better for me than the old red lens/blue lens system of the past. My left eye is very weak, so much so that I have problems with depth perception, but the new 3-D process works fine for me.

Anonymous said...

It is the rare movie that can be both...SQUIRREL...

Amanda said...

So true. I love Pixar. It'd be great if they could have a female protagonist sometime, though...

dgm said...

Oh, I hate to be so negative but I gotta go with jeffhopkins on this one. I loved loved the montage and some of the first half, but I thought it degenerated into Scooby Doo as well. And that kid Russell? I did not connect with him.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe so many people liked this movie. The first half was sweet. The second half commited one of the worst crimes a movie can do: reject the limitiations it spent the first half creating.

The old man went from being an old man requiring a walker and a stair thing to being a ninja in a sword fight, and the fat kid went from not being able to climb the rope to climbing it when needed. (which made the first half relatively pointless).

It wasn't acceptable to write a movie and scene were an old man can be old and a fat kid can be unathletic. If pixar has no respect for their characters, then i have no respect for their movie.

M. George Stevenson said...

The villain was Douglas Fairbanks Jr. not Kirk Douglas! It's a brilliant choice, too, because it gives you the expectation of DF Sr.'s rogue heroes and pays it off with the sense of DF Jr.'s more devious roues.