Pixar’s Up

Tuesday 2 June 2009This is more than 14 years old. Be careful.

We saw Up over the weekend, and I enjoyed it very much. As usual with Pixar movies, it’s got some complicated emotions. The first 10 minutes of the movie is a summary of his entire life, and puts you right at the center of his love for his wife.

Visually, the movie is beautiful, especially the attention to detail in the nostalgic items from Karl’s past. They’ve made the mundane objects he’s attached to works of art. The snapshots especially caught my eye. They have textures characteristic of their time, and the imperfections typical of snapshots which somehow make them more evocative and realistic.

On the downside, the plot is absurd, even for a kids movie, almost absurd enough to get in the way of enjoying the movie. Some will find the emotional resolution of the story simplistic, but you have to remember this is still a rated-PG kids’ movie.

The usual Pixar traditions are in place, including easter eggs, with a glimpse of an upcoming character, and an appearance of the Luxo Jr. ball. Here’s a trivia factoid I haven’t read anywhere, but I think may be true: this is the first Pixar movie with blood in it.

I really appreciated that the movie works without playing down to children with the usual poop jokes and kids sassing stupid adults. There are no up-to-the-moment culture references or pop music dance sequences. The biggest name celebrity voice is Ed Asner. The movie succeeds not because of gimmicks but because of solid story-telling.


You do you realize you are criticizing the plot of an animated film for realism? Pixar's previous movies involved worlds of talking toys, talking cars, and monsters actually living behind the closet door. Compared to those, Up is pretty down to earth (no pun intended). Of course all those movies, no matter the realism of the plot, were good movies.
It is an interesting conundrum: what makes a film's plot stretch credulity? In this case, there's a house lifted by helium balloons, steered to a specific spot on earth by means of a weather vane and shower curtains. I'm willing to accept that as a flight of fancy (no pun intended). It seemed like a poetic visual metaphor.

But (without giving anything away) later in the movie there are events that don't fit together right. I found myself thinking, "but if he's 78 then ...", and it seemed like there had to be a more self-consistent world that could have supported the plot.
About the blood ... Dory gets an accidental nosebleed in "Finding Nemo" (which makes Bruce The Shark go into a feeding frenzy)
Thanks for the review -- can't wait to take the kids to see it. Just out of curiosity, was there a signature challenge in Up? (Similar to the ones you describe here: http://nedbatchelder.com/blog/200805/ratatouille_and_pixar_technology.html )
@John: I'm sure they advanced the state of their rendering and animation engines, but I don't know in what ways. There was nothing that stood out in Up as an advance in those areas. It's Pixar's first 3D, but I would think that should be relatively simple to add onto a geometrically modeled scene.

Speaking of which, one other credit to the filmmakers: although there were many vertiginous shots, none of them seemed thrown in just to get a "Wow! 3D!" effect, they were all part of the story.
I loved the movie and can accept a high level of fanciful, BUT even fanciful movies need internal logic. And, unless the explorer hit upon the Fountain of Youth, which I thought perhaps was going to be the explanation, then Carl could not have caught up to him in age. Am I being the curmudgeon or does this bother others??
We saw this movie today - I think Ned hit it right on the head. I was able to suspend reality enough 99% of the time, but later events actually irked me. That said, I cried more in this movie than in Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Bridge to Terabithia combined.

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