Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pixar's Up - A bit too conceptual?

For some reason I wasn't exactly sold on the critically acclaimed Pixar movie Up. Yes, you can hardly find more emotionally engaging first 10 or so minutes of movies that function completely without dialogue. And I think the first ten minutes of Up in which we get to know Mr. Fredericksen's whole life story are maybe on their own worth all the praise that this movie is getting.

However, when the movie progressed I couldn't help but feel like everything was just a little bit random. Colourful rare birds? Okay. But talking dogs? Cooking dogs? Dogs flying airplanes? That really felt a bit much. I've waited quite a while to get Up on DVD but when the Limited Edition was released over here just a month ago I thought I'd finally get it and listen to the audio commentary and watch all the bonus features.

I really have to commend Pixar on their efforts to create the wonderful wilderness of South America. They actually went there, went onto these huge stone monoliths to experience it all themselves. And their attention to detail and their inspiration really translates well onto the screen. But we are used to getting that from Pixar, so where did Up go slightly off?

When I watched the audio commentary I heard a lot of "We always wanted to put [this] or [that] into a movie...". I realised above all Up seemed a little bit too conceptual maybe to engage me as much as some of Pixar's other productions. It felt like it was a movie that is certainly based on a great and innovative idea but nevertheless a bit cluttered by things that Pixar had wanted to do for ages and ended up putting it into this movie.

Nevertheless, of course there are great things about Pixar. I find that Russel's character is extremely intriguing. The way his dialogue flows just feels natural and authentic for a kid his age. His family situation, which is only touched upon briefly also seems interesting. While Andy's father was away for all of Toy Story we at least hear about Russel's father existing and Russel missing him. All this gets resolved in Mr. Fredericksen being the one who is there for Russel in the end. And finally, Russel being an Asian-American main character for a kid's movie isn't the least part of why I think he's an awesome choice.

Also having Mr. Fredericksen as a main character for a quite action-laden movie is a nice step against the growing ageism that we have been facing for decades. The resolution of the feeling of loss that Russel and Mr. Fredericksen share when it comes to their family members is resolved beautifully by showing once more that unconventional models of families may be just as functional in providing nurturance for their family members.

Up remains a very innovative and thoughtful movie, even though it's execution might appear cluttered to some people. In the light of recent announcements, being Cars 2 as well as a Monster's Inc prequel I hope that Pixar continues trying to bring forth original scripts. Even though I did enjoy the Toy Story trilogy immensely I feel like the whole film industry has had too many sequels in recent years.

Thus, I also have really high hopes for Brave, Pixar's new movie featuring - finally - a female main character. Don't mess this up, guys.

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