THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill Kallay"Up" is one of those rare films that, for me, is hard to describe how I felt after watching it. Most critics and audiences have fallen in love with the film. It is quite an achievement in filmmaking by taking what would ordinarily be a no-no (an elderly man as the star), and turning it into a nice adventure. But I left "Up" as I did with "Wall-E:" mixed.
"Up" is now available on Blu-ray.
The film opens with a charming and very moving sequence about balloon salesman Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner) and his wife, Elie. This sequence caused me to look away from the screen when I saw it theatrically with my daughter. "Daddy, are you crying?" "No honey. Just watch the movie." In about 10-minutes, we see the couple from their youth to Elie's passing. Even though I knew what was going to happen, both directors Peter Docter and Bob Peterson expertly tell this part of the story so honestly. It really does move you. It reminded me of my grandparents on my father's side. They'd spent most of their lives together. When my grandmother passed away, it seemed that my grandfather's world was empty. Could he adjust to life without her? That's how it feels when watching Carl adjust to his life without Elie. You feel for his pain and loss.
With impending progress comes decision. Carl is perfectly content living in his old house as skyscrapers are being built around him. Kind of reminds me of an old Looney Tunes cartoon in which Bugs Bunny fights off a mean construction worker bent on turning his rabbit hole into an expressway. Carl doesn't want to leave. Just as the old folk's home is about to cart Carl away, he blows up 10,297 colorful balloons through the roof of his house and floats away to Paradise Falls, a place he & Elie dreamed about. The problem is, Carl has an accidental stowaway, a kid named Russell. Once they reach Paradise Falls, the film slows down and we're introduced to a cute talking dog (with the help of a translator) named Dug (Bob Peterson), and Carl's childhood hero, Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer).
This is where the film, for a lack of a better term, took a left turn for me. It wasn't too abrupt, but it did chip the paint a bit. The relationship between Carl and Russell is sweet. There is a story point early in the Carl & Elie sequence that shows why having Russell in the film is important. But I didn't feel that Carl, even towards the end of the film, really cared much for the kid. If there was a small spot in the opening sequence in which Carl bonds with a kid, or is more sad about the loss of his & Elie's child due to the miscarriage, I think the relationship with Russell would've worked better.
The film further changes direction with Charles Muntz and his talking dogs. Not that I'm against a movie with talking dogs, especially from Pixar. Not at all. It just seems out of place here, though Dug is adorable and funny. But the whole idea that Muntz somehow survived down in Venezuela for decades and raised hundreds of dogs with fairly modern translators kind of lost me. The film is fantasy. But after such a brilliant beginning, I felt as though I was watching a different film. I also couldn't get past the ages of Carl and Muntz. In the opening, they're years apart. By the final act, they're senior citizens. Seems logical. Yet I kept thinking that Muntz must be around or over 100 years old! How does he manage to look pretty young, and how is he so physically fit? Maybe I'm reading too much into this whole movie.
The Blu-ray is a simply brilliant and reference quality disc. I'll just go ahead and repeat what I said in the "Monsters, Inc." review: WOW! The film is sharp and colorful throughout with plenty of dimension and detail to make your eyes happy. The color palette of the film really stands out on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is warm and very dynamic. Michael Giacchino's score is lush and plays wonderfully over the soundtrack. Sound effects are loud, but never overbearing and they fit right into the story at hand.
Yes indeed, I'm in the minority on "Up." It is a well made film and has charm and sadness written all over it. It's a mixed bag for me. The more I thought about it, there was a great story in the opening sequence that worked so well, yet the rest of the movie doesn't quite fit. Deep inside my mind, I think a feature film about Carl & Elie would've worked just as well.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © WDSHE. All rights reserved.