Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

Up!: The case against calling it brilliant

Up! could only possibly be disappointing from the perspective of Pixar’s ridiculous standards.

What follows is an edited distillation of my end of a back and forth on the movie (with a friend who counted it a “transcendent work of art” that outstripped Wall-E, Ratattoille, and the Incredibles)—taking some of my his better points:

Up! was good. Especially the opening montage. Overall, I agree with [my roommate] that it was, as he put it, “Finding Nemo” good… but not up to the standards of the “big three” in my book (The Incredibles, Ratattoille, Wall-E).

It didn’t have the consistent elegance of Wall-E (the balloon house was beautiful, and the shot of paradise falls, but no other images really stick with me… the city and the jungle weren’t as interesting as Paris and the kitchen in Ratattoille, the island in the Incredibles, the post-Apocalyptic wasteland or the spaceship in Wall-E).

It did have substance as social commentary, which puts it ahead of what I remember of Nemo, but it just didn’t read as being as thematically tight as Pixar at its best. I liked the exploration of the persisting significance of extraordinary childhood dreams and their associated regrets contrasted with healthy development, but most of that work was done in the montage. The rest of the movie was full of gags and distractions that really had no bearing on it. The “new adventure” with the boy was meaningful as a new adventure, but was there any further significance to the form that that new adventure took? When the adventure could be anything, why is the kid as he is? Why is the bird as it is? Of course the bird is hilarious (without trying as hard as they were with the dogs), but Pixar can make anything hilarious. How does it all fit together? I mean you can contort yourself to find threads, but without contortions, it seems kindof random (again by the standards of Wall-E, Ratatoille, and the Incredibles). And it’s such a huge part of the movie.

I also had a problem with the boy as a character. It seemed especially like the abandonment thing was slapped on and meant to have a significance and emotional impact that just didn’t land on me. Again, mostly because the steady stream of random sad anecdotes that were used to develop it seemed to come out of nowhere.


On a related note: How horrible does that Soderberg Bruckheimer hamster movie look? He apparently discovered that 3D can make things shoot at the audience’s face and though “Why not build a whole movie around that?!”


UPDATE: My apologies to Soderberg


4 Responses to “Up!: The case against calling it brilliant”

  1. Up! was amazing. Better than Wall-E by a mile. The best movie I’ve seen all year. I will crush you.

  2. […] a comment » He thinks Up! was better than Wall-E (see the comment).  […]

    • I think the reason that Up! was a sub-par Pixar movie was because its moral was so simplistic and predictable. I would be hard pressed to find as well-warned a moral adage in the “big three” as something as simple as Up!’s “life is about the journey not about the destination.” Also, call me cynical but I felt it was a little bit of a cheat to develop all of the emotional resonance through a montage of the perfect woman/marriage in which we watch her die. The death of a saint is too easy for Pixar.

      Also, not Soderbergh–Bruckheimer. Big difference. Bruchkheimer is the popcrapular producer behind such notable turds as Armageddon and Kangaroo Jack. Soderbergh’s missteps are usually at least risky.

  3. Oy. Thanks. Will change to Bruckheimer.

    Also… well put, though I disagree about the death of a Saint thing. True, in the end she was without fault, but then plenty of old people idealize their dead spouses (and I think it was intended to be his memory of their fairy-tale-with-regrets life together). It would’ve worked fine if there was more substance to what followed… they were trying to provide that substance with the “poor neglected earnest boy” thing, but it wasn’t coherent enough to be the counterbalance I think they wanted it to be; exacerbated by his otherwise being comic relief.

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