I’d like to assure everyone that I won’t be a curmudgeonly old man, but truth be told I’m already there!
Screenplay By: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Directed By: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
My wife balled like a baby during the majority of Up. I don’t bring this up to mock my wife, or to make any sort of sentimental point. The fact that my wife reacted so strongly to multiple moments in Up and not just the opening montage sequence attests to the skill at hand in crafting the characters found in Up. Carl Fredriekson is the curmudgeon with a heart of gold that almost all of us know. Russell is the earnest kid trying to find a parental figure anywhere in his life that I think most of us have been around at some point in time. Dug is, well, Dug is the dog that is super loyal and loving and in return we love the heck out of him back. I think you get my point, the characters in Up are realized like they are flesh and blood and that is what makes them matter so much to the viewer.
I, like my wife, was drawn into the story more because of the characters than its fantasy elements. Don’t get me wrong though, I enjoyed the heck out of the fantasy elements. I never understood why people got so up in arms about dogs flying airplanes? I don’t care what anyone says, that was flat out cool and a great way to round out the dogs acting more and more like humans thread of the film. The fantasy elements fit in with the way that Paradise Falls is presented throughout, as well as with the general tone of the film. From the onset, with the old school World War II news reel footage, Up has the veneer of an adventure film. Over time it gains elements of drama, comedy, and fantasy. Up is a great film because of how seamlessly it weaves those disparate film genres together into a cohesive whole.
The characters and the genres that Up dabbles in would be for naught if they weren’t accompanied by a dazzling visual palette. Luckily the fine folks at Pixar Animation Studios were up to the challenge yet again. Up is up near the top of animated films when it comes to its visuals. Not only is the animation in Up finely detailed, but it’s also panoramic in a way that sweeps the images across the eyes. I think it’s a deliberate effect, because I found myself being drawn repeatedly into every nook and cranny of the screen. The animators behind Up used plenty of wide shots to express the scope and grandeur of the world they were bringing the viewer into. The “camera” would often sweep across the wide open places, leaving the eye no choice but to trail behind the “camera” and become overwhelmed in the sheer enormity of the visual scope on display. Or, in other words, I was mightily impressed by the grand beauty of the animated visuals found in Up.
When story, characters, visuals, and genre all come together the end product is a great film. Calling Up a great film shouldn’t come as a surprise. Those who regularly read my work know that I am a huge Pixar fan, I love the majority of their features and shorts. What is surprising is that watching Up this time, for what had to be the tenth time at least, it felt just as fresh as the first time I watched it in the theaters with my younger brothers (don’t let the young label fool you, they were both in their late teens when we watched Up together). Up is a powerful piece of filmmaking, and a shining example of the great heights that animation can soar to in the film medium. I’m still a curmudgeon, but even my cold, cold heart can’t help but love the magical, and heartfelt, adventure that is Up.