Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


UpCan you get much higher? - Up

For a long time I rated 'Toy Story' as the original and the best of Pixar's string of animation hits. With 'Wall-E' though I felt they had reached another peak. And now with 'Up', their latest (and first true foray into 3-D), they have really upped what was already a pretty high ante.
On the surface, a whimsical tale of a man who floats his house off to adventure with the aid of helium balloons, 'Up' is as touching a tale as Pixar have ever created.
Sentimental it may be, it nevertheless has enough darkness to counteract the sweetness that made 'Finding Nemo' cloy. Carl, the grumpy old man at the core of the film, has lived a life that is recognisably human. Meeting and marrying his soulmate, Ellie, he shares his wife's dream of travelling to foreign climes and adventure. Sadly the day to day gets in the way. Within the first twenty minutes we experience a low for every high in their long life together - a new home, their failure to have children, shared moments and Ellie's sad demise - better preparing us for our journey with the old man. With its echoes of "It's a Wonderful Life", it runs the risk of suffering by comparison with that earlier classic. It is high praise then to say that it equals that older movie's emotional pull.
There are weaknesses. It is minimal (there are few characters), and the plotline is not as robust as its siblings (the protection of a bird that is not actually in real danger is a major driver). I would have preferred to see Christopher Plummer's bad guy, Charles Muntz, treated with a little more complexity. As it is his mania is not heightened enough, nor his pain explored. However, there is such a sure understanding of the central character, Carl, that the emotional power his rollercoaster adventure simply overwhelms you. And how many other mainstream movies feature a old man as their protagonist? Ed Asner as Carl is every bit as good as you might expect, while Jordan Nagai as the boyscout along for the ride is never irritating, being naively enthusiastic without being overbearing.
This is as close as Pixar have come to animated perfection. For all the talking dogs, coloured balloons and slapstick, this is as grown-up a movie as you'll see. Yes, the animation is beautiful, the 3-D dazzling, the music sumptuous, and the acting superb, but in the end it is the emotional heart of the story that really shines through. It follows Disney's dictum that every laugh should have a tear to the letter. Indeed the glasses are not for the 3-D, they're to hide the tears, and I needed them.

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