It’s time to take a look at Up. This film got quite a lot of hype back in the day. It was known as one of Pixar’s most emotional films as well as one of their best. I’m afraid I couldn’t really agree on that. Still, it is a decently good film, just one that is a step behind other hits like Finding Nemo, Inside Out, and Cars. Let’s take a look at why that is.
First, here’s the plot of the film. It starts out with a very timid kid losing his balloon and getting scared out of his mind by his neighbor. He isn’t the bravest kid as you might expect but years pass by and they get married until she dies. Her only wish was to go to Paradise Falls with him so he decides that he will get her there. He plants a bunch of balloons and uses them to lift the house, but a kid has stowed away on the balloon. Now the main character will have to try and land the house in Paradise Falls while keeping the kid alive as well as watching out for a bird hunter who has a pack of trained dog hunters who obey his every command.
This film is definitely trying to go the emotional route. Although it immediately tries for a comedy moment the scene after the heroine dies. That was probably to try and keep the film from getting too dark. What holds this film back is definitely the main characters. The kid who travels with Carl is really annoying from start to finish. Sure, he is desperate to get his final badge, but annoying an old man into relenting to the task barely counts at all. He should have just quickly ran to the retirement home to try someone else or perhaps waited a bit. He doesn’t take the adventure very seriously and also isn’t very smart. He always makes sure to say the wrong thing at the wrong time which can get pretty annoying. There is never a moment where he develops into a good character and the film would have been better off without him. This is exactly why I’m not a huge fan of having kids play a big role in a film.
Carl isn’t a great lead either. It’s partially because you know he is about to soften up and that his tough exterior is just for show. After he was so mean for the first half of the film you can’t buy into his change of heart. He should have either stayed mean, but his actions happened to coincide with the kid’s goals or started out nice. It’s also a big change from when he was a kid since at that point he seemed to be a nice kid who could barely even talk. I didn’t care for that intro to be honest but I suppose it wasn’t too long. The main character going from that to not caring if the bird is captured and trying to evade the animals is a real 180 for his personality.
The villain was definitely interesting. At least he needed to capture the bird alive so he made it clear that he wouldn’t harm him. He also means business as he destroyed all profit seeking travelers who came after him. You’re not going to pull the wool over this guy. I do have to wonder how he was on this rock for so long and never found the bird. This guy may have been an explorer but he certainly isn’t a good tracker.
The animation looks pretty good for Up. It’s the usual Pixar style so you either like it or you don’t. It’s clear enough and their style of character designs are always fun although everyone ends up looking rather chubby. Unfortunately there isn’t much of a soundtrack to complement the animation. Perhaps for a sequel someday that will change, but there isn’t really much they could do in a sequel.
The talking dogs was a fun element in the film. Doug was a reasonable character and while it would have been cool if he was a little smarter like the other dogs, the whole point is that he didn’t really fit in with the others. At least now he has a better home where instead of traversing the wilderness he can sit down and have a snack. The Bird couldn’t talk, but the roars were definitely intense. He did a good job of keeping the main characters on their toes and reminding them of the Peking order.
I guess there is just something about the movie that didn’t click with me that is hard to pinpoint. Perhaps it was too ordinary? The film definitely has less fantastical elements when compared to other big titles like Cars (Talking cars and the society around them) or Inside Out. (Where each person is controlled by other people) Then as a normal slice of life it just isn’t as good as it could have been. Maybe the film just didn’t have enough heart or the plot wasn’t handled the right way. I do think the film would have been a lot better if the two main characters had been the old man and his wife. They would have had a much better dynamic than him and the kid. Finally, maybe it’s that the other plots in the movie seemed to be more interesting. A film about Carl trying to keep his house amidst a changing world could have been pretty interesting or Carl actually making it to the Falls and trying to adapt to life over there. Instead we get a lot of trekking which would be fine…with better characters.
Overall, Up had its fun moments, but including the kid as one of the main characters was probably a bad move. He just doesn’t add anything to the film and comes off as an ingrate who tries to guilt trip the main character. If he could actually fight or do something against the main villains that would be one thing, but since he wants the senior citizen to fight the battles, it’s hard to like the kid. Traveling on a flying house is definitely a cool concept though and the writing wasn’t bad. It’s a fun enough film that I can recommend. Just don’t expect it to be the next big thing.