Monday, June 01, 2009

my review of Pixar's "Up"

Spoilers ahead, so skip this if you want to save the experience....

I'm a sucker for emotional films. I'm a softie romantic. As a kid I sobbed my way through Snoopy, Come Home. I sniffle at every single chick flick I've ever seen. Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan devastated me for weeks. Literally. About Schmidt left an impact crater on my life that still moves me (It's a great film that shares a lot with Up- it's about a widower going on an adventure to find himself after his wife passes away, establishing a relationship with a young boy along the way). So films usually have a powerful emotional affect on me. But for some reason this one didn't hold. I think I must be the only human being to have experienced this (based on all the rapturous and breathless reviews I've read so far), but Up never grabbed me. It's not like I came in wanting to not like the film. I really liked Pete Docter's first film, Monsters Inc. Emotionally I found it very rewarding when I first saw it, and the scene at the end with Boo still gets me when I watch it (like I said- I'm a softie). And I'd heard how Up was Miyasaki like in many ways, so I was looking forward to that vibe. And by all accounts Pete's a great guy, too. So I was expecting to like this film. But something happened along the way to Act 2.
I got left behind.

The 4 minute Ellie/Carl life montage felt superficial, cliche'd and- frankly- rushed. It was like "Look here's the character you're supposed to care about. See how sad it is? Let that music roll over you. You want this man to be happy, right? Good. Now- let's go fly that house!" Their relationship had no real drama. Unfortunate things & disappointments happened in their life, but none of them came from their relationship. The deepest pain and the greatest joy in life come from those we love the most. What if their childlessness caused real tension in their relationship- a wounding that needed to be redeemed and resolved? Couples who deal with sterility don't sail through very cleanly with a "There, there" pat on the hand and a supportive smile. There's wounding that goes on. You could have put that in there -- even in a montage. That sincerity would make me connect with Carl & Ellie. Remember how powerful the argument scene in The Incredibles was? That sold me on those people. Film is about expressing something of the human story in each of us. Nobody lives Carl & Ellie's story. Nobody. And that's why I felt it was a hollow moment. All that aside, even if I accepted their blissful relationship at face value, I couldn't get my heart around Carl. Carl seemed merely a spectator in Ellie's life. From the moment we see her as a child she was a catalyst character, to me Carl was a cypher. Ellie lived, Carl watched and reacted. Even the most touching thing any character ever did in Acts 2 & 3 were the words Ellie wrote in her book to Carl. I found it difficult to engage emotionally with such a character. If you're going to put the character development efforts on fast forward, then you better have some meat on that bone. The blue balloon & cross your heart symbols were just too "on-the-nose" for me. If this were done in live action- shot for shot, action for action with the same memes and symbols it would be panned as maudlin and ham-handed. If performed by Will Farrell it would have been pure comedy. In Up apparently it's the height of filmmaking, I guess. For me it was just too obvious, too by-the-numbers. Like a lot of animated filmmaking done today it seemed formulaic to the core. Like I said, I think I'm the only person who experienced the film this way. Maybe I need to see a doctor.

All that aside, I was surprised by this one discovery. I found that if the film didn't grab you in that montage, the rest of it didn't hold up. That montage was an all-or-nothing moment. If you're not in by the end of that, you're out for the rest of the film. Most folks were hooked in that early montage, and that emotional investment papered over a lot of weaknesses in the film. Which is really how films are supposed to work, because every film has holes that need to be papered over by the audience. It's called the suspension of disbelief. I guess I was Up's kryptonite.

Since I wasn't emotionally engaged I found myself just watching the film without the tears I shed in Act 1 operating as a lens that affected how I saw everything that followed. I found it to be an interesting experience to see a film from such an objective viewpoint. As a result I noticed a number of things that just didn't ring true. There was a big disconnect in the film regarding pain, danger and mortality. The rules weren't the same for every moment. In one moment wounding pain is real and meant to elicit sympathy or have fear for the welfare of the character, in another it's a gag meant to make you laugh and in other moments things that should have caused significant physical pain and injury had no effect at all on characters. Normally you'd just roll with it in animation, but they purposefully chose to show wounds with blood, welts and cuts, along with the frailty of age. That's taking things up a notch. These mean things when you are trying to establish the rules for how the audience interprets your world. This inconsistency kept me from knowing what to feel about injurious possibilities. I had to wait to have them interpreted for me. In storytelling we call those "bumps along the ride". Things that toss the audience out of the moment.

A significant item that held me back from buying into Carl's story as it unfolded was that I had a hard time buying into Carl, the old man. After the first act he stopped moving and acting like a slow, creaky, feeble 78 year old widower who needs a walking cane. He became a physically strong, high endurance, highly flexible action hero who can take a beating and keep on ticking- brushing off any ill effects from a fall or being trampled, tossed and otherwise roughly handled. I get it- his adventure revitalized him. But there's a difference between a revitalized old man and a strong young man. For all the comparisons to Miyasaki that people have for Up, this is where Miyasaki handles things way better. His frail characters live their adventures in their frailty. The girl transformed into an old woman in Howl's Moving Castle moved and acted like an old woman for the majority of the movie (until she started transforming back into her younger self, that is). The children in My Neighbor Totoro were limited children the whole film, experiencing their world as children, not action heroes. Up dispenses with human frailty in exchange for action set pieces. How many hanging one hand grabs to save oneself from falling to one's doom can a 78 year be expected to pull off? How many times can they be thrown down from heights and not break a hip? (my 76 year old mother in law broke her hip falling off a bed. And she wasn't some wilting flower of a woman, physically, either). And that's only one example. There were scores of them. I'm not the kind of person who picks nits in movies over physical impossibilities (ie: the entire Michael Bay filmography), but this is the guts of Character Animation, folks. Sure the moves exhibited a form of technical polish and solidity, but they were hollow of meaning- they weren't believable in any way because they were not true to an old man in any way. It wasn't character animation (ie: within character, expressing a unique person in every way)- it was movement to keep up with the gymnastics of adventure. Aside from a spare gag or two jammed in to occasionally remind us of his age, Carl as an elderly man just didn't ring true for the last 3/4ths of the film. If you want me to buy into a character's story then I need to buy into the character's being. This wasn't a story about an old man on an adventure saddled with the limitations of his old-man-ish-ness. That would be an interesting and intriguing film if you ask me. Instead this was an action adventure flick with a strong athletic character in an old man costume who occasionally acted old for effect. Stanislovsky's rolling in his grave. Isn't this why we pan CG 'performance capture' films? Some may say I'm quibbling. Maybe I am. But that really kept knocking me out time and time again. And it wasn't just Carl who had this problem. The antagonist Muntz behaved the exact same way. Set him up as an ancient old man (20+ years older than even Carl himself), have him move like Errol Flynn in his prime. Russel was little better in his 9 year old boy-ish-ness.  I will say that there was one genius scene with Russel where he's complaining about being tired of walking like a real 9 year old boy would. It was the one moment in the film that I felt like a real character existed there. I'm sorry, but for all the raves over how great Pixar's character animation is, I found this whole thing astonishing.

I thought the most honest character in the film was Dug. His mind was simple and he was really just supposed to be a comedy relief character, but everything he did and said and emoted felt like it came from an honest place inside of him. He was a dog, he thought like a dog, had dog feelings and motivations and reactions and movements. When Dug was on the screen everything about him was sincere. His scene on the porch after the house lifts off again was amazing. He wasn't just a dog, but a real character. The animators did a magical job of expressing him as a character. In other words, I bought Dug's part in the story because I believed in Dug, even though the filmmakers didn't seem to try very hard with him. But I did not buy Carl's or Russel's story, despite all the efforts to make me choke up over them.

Artistically, I'll have more thoughts on the overall aesthetic approach and how it related to the story in another post. Quite often Up was a visually stunning film.

Anyhow, let the flames begin. I expect no shortage of scorn for posting this. *sigh*

Post Script: It's been two days since I watched Up. I haven't thought about it one bit since I wrote this review on Friday. The film continues to have had no impact on my life. I can say this is not usual for me. For whatever that's worth.

38 comments:

Wonkey the Monkey said...

Ah, Mr. Lango. You're becoming a cranky old man, but I love ya all the same!

I won't try to argue you into liking the movie. I think you nailed it with regards to the opening montage defining the movie. I personally was moved to tears by it, but I can understand how the rest of the movie would seem hollow to someone who wasn't.

"Like I said, I think I'm the only person who experienced the film this way. Maybe I need to see a doctor."

Pun intended?

john said...

I really liked this film, but I think it's important that some people don't. It keeps Pixar in check.

-John

jim said...

Actually Keith, you are not alone. And although I couldn't put my finger on it like you just did, I felt the same way when I left the theater.
I came to this movie ready to be moved. I loved Monsters Inc. and I expected to have a similar emotional experience here. If I were a bowling pin, I would have been teetering on my edge, just ready to fall over, but I never fell.
Oddly, Up's prologue reminded me of the first 15 minutes of the first Harry Potter movie where you're whisked through this break neck introduction to Harry's family. The film says, "Look, here's Harry's family and they're really bad people. We don't have time to show you why they're bad, but trust us they are. So, let's go be wizards!"
Like you, I failed to connect to Carl at the beginning, so I never connected with him after that. As much as I wanted to be close to this movie, it kept me at arms length. Being left so objective about the characters only made it harder to suspend my disbelief when things in the plot or the development of the characters didn't add up. I didn't want to wonder, "How the heck did that house get to exactly the place Carl has always dreamed of in no time at all?" But I couldn't help it.
I like your insight about the argument scene in the Incredibles and how that helped define and flesh out the characters. You've given me some great food for thought about what makes a character and a story in film compelling.

Tim said...

I like Krispey Kreme donuts.I like them a LOT. To me they taste like manna from heaven.

My mother-in-law can't stand 'em. Too light and airy for her. She demands more from her bread. (I love my mother-in-law, and we get along great!)

Something about this film hit me right between the eyes and wouldn't let go. It found my soft spot.

We've all got our favorites, but that's what personal taste is all about, isn't it?

Daniel said...

Hey Keith,

Nice post. I agree with all your "bumps along the way". But I still got caught up in it. I still laughed, and I still cried. I noticed a number of moments with really bad character animation, and I'm still a student. I noticed some gems (Carl wiping his face, Russel complaining, Carl balling up to scrapbook the second time). I think it's all part of making a movie. I remember Brad Bird said you have to pick your money shots, they can't all be great. There's not enough time and money. It's a shame. But I think they care more about the story.

This is exactly why The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar film. I believed EVERYTHING, and I was totally into the subject matter as well.

As for the "bumps", I think they are minor to the average person. Only people like you and Michael Sporn, and other animation vets have the critical eye necessary to really notice that stuff and let it...well almost ruin the movie for them. They do say once you make movies for a living it kind of ruins watching them for you. Not looking forward to that. But I think they are aware of those "bumps" and are ok with them. Just like the many "bumps" in the classics, Walt thought they would be fine left in, right? Like Pinocchio drowning, etc.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I kind of was worried if I am the only one who wasn't sold on the first montage, and people were saying if you didn't cry over it you have no soul. And I suppose I really have no soul... I wasn't sure why I am not sold on it, until I read your article here and I realize, "Hey, that makes sense!! No wonder I'm not emotionally moved!" Thanks Keith! :)

Personally, I think I should ban myself from the internet 2 months before any Pixar movies gets released because this marketing system Disney is doing is spoiling too much of the movie for me. I wasn't laughing a lot since most of the gag has been spoiled for me, the rest of the movie is more of intense and emotionally disturbing.

I did noticed a bit of animation faults here and there and wondered if it was just me... But their subtle animation are really good. I can't keep my eyes off those somehow.

I tend to find the still images more powerful than the entire film itself though.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_GY-vHrWkMMg/Sh-oTkeNWjI/AAAAAAAAA0k/aQog9FeSr2g/s1600-h/08.jpg
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_GY-vHrWkMMg/Sh-oBi6s0WI/AAAAAAAAA0M/QfG1A5Qd0k8/s1600-h/11.jpg

These two image are so powerful for me, I was sort of expecting the same effect in the film but it just didn't. It's strange, but you are probably right that they were too rushed.
Overall, I feel like watching it again and see how it can emotionally trigger me this time. Thank you for your post too!!

Andrew Lee said...

Haven't seen it yet...waiting for my niece to come up:)

Don't know if you've seen some of the artwork from UP over on Lou Romano's blog. If not you should go check it out....very cool stuff.

I really really dig the miniature's that he took photos of using balsa wood and what looks like some kind of lava rock or coral or something.

Jacob said...

Hey Keith,

I think you brought up a lot of really good points. Many of them I realize, in retrospect, were things that bothered me about the film as well.
However, I'm not as articulate as you.

In addition to the things you mentioned, one other huge problem for me was the dogs. Not the main dogs, but the crowd dogs. I really liked Dug, and I was on-board with the 3 villain dogs introduced in the jungle, but once there were hundreds of dogs, they lost me. Also, I can't believe you didn't mention that they flew planes. I mean, wow...
Do the collars increase they're intelligence? or do they simply voice their thoughts? I thought the latter, but if they can fly...
Some friends and I thought that they could probably do away with the flying-dogs-shooting-machine-gun-darts entirely. Wouldn't Russel have been in enough danger floating away on the house all by himself? (especially since they set up earlier that he can't climb the hose)

Anyway, despite my problems with the film, i still found it pretty enjoyable. There were enough entertaining acting choices to keep me interested (even if you felt they were not character specific enough, i thought there were many unique choices I wouldn't have thought of).
However, just because i found it enjoyable does not mean i thought it was 'amazing' or even 'great.'
It was fun.

bobc said...

I think what we have here is a serious case of expectationitis. Sounds like you had the movie laid out frame-by-frame in your head and what you saw on the screen just didn't match --leading to extreme disappointment and apparent critical despair.

The congnoscente's curse.

The good folks at Pixar just had different ideas.

I thought the movie was sweet, funny, exciting, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Ron said...

Loved the film seriously. Great, great film.

Jasmine said...

I think I agree with bobc here when he says:
"I think what we have here is a serious case of expectationitis."

I stayed away from any reviews and media relating to Up as much as I could because all the hype of a movie usually ruins the experience for me personally. I love Up, I instantly was touched by the montage in the beginning. In retrospect they did fly through that section of the Carl's life fairly quickly. But I still think it got the job done. Regardless there were flaws.. and yeah the dogs flying the airplanes was weak (I still got a tiny kick out the the Star Wars reference there but that is odd for Pixar in and of itself). All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

With that said, I greatly appreciate your opinion Keith,as do I think many people who read this blog; and it is great to see the other point of view on this film. =)

Galen Fott said...

I was very moved by the montage, but then they lost me, mainly for the reasons you describe. Every film needs to have its own consistent "reality". It doesn't matter how actually "real" it is, as long as it's consistent. This one didn't. The film had me in the palm of its hand, and then really lost me. Very disappointing to have that early promise squandered.

Still, there was much to enjoy throughout.

AFightingPanda said...

I have to say I agree! I was suckered into the montage at the beginning of the film but that was just not enough to hold me over through the rest of the film. I couldn't manage to go through the fairly one dimensional characters and seemingly by the number approach to film making. When I left the theater I just wasn't satisfied with the way it had played out, the way that it had happened. I think that what has happened is that people expect pixar to be amazing and therefore when they do something not so amazing people think its amazing anyway because that's whats expected. I really appreciate you taking the time to spell out some of the problems with this film in such a well thought out articulate way since I think people need to hear it.

Michael Sporn said...

I have this interesting problem of wanting, almost desperately, to be drawn wholly into a film. When the "bumps" start happening, I'm back in a theater watching a film.
I didn't like the art style of UP but I didn't allow that to stop me from going into the film. I stayed throughout the first 10-15 mins. (without crying), but then I was out of it.
The absurd and illogical court decision, on to one old guy inflating all those balloons overnight, to talking dogs (if they could cook, serve dinner, and fly airplanes why not just have them talk?) It was all too much, and I still rode with the film 1/4 enjoying 3/4 watching.
In the end the film just didn't add up, and I hadn't bought into the fake emotions.
You were right on all your points, and you weren't alone or your site and mine would be bulging with hate comments. Others obviously are agreeing - at least reluctantly.

Kasey said...

Greatest Up review ever. I agreed with every single point made here. =)

Floyd Norman said...

This cranky old man saw the film on story reels about a year ago. It's good to view films that way because you truly know if they work -- or if they don't.

I was happy to tell Pete and Jonas, "your film works," and this past weekend the audience agreed.

Of course, no film clicks with everybody. But, because it's so damn hard to make these things I truly respect those who even come close. I enjoyed my years at Pixar. These guys aren't perfect -- but they're damn close.

Mike B said...

"The deepest pain and the greatest joy in life come from those we love the most"

beautiful man
I'm a softy too, heh, and I get choked up EVERYTIME I see Violet, from Incredibles, talking to her mom in the cave. And I agree with you about the comment about the argument in Incredibles. There was a great build up of characters and story before that went down. You can feel the tension in their lives...most of us have been there to some extent.
Trying to write for short film format, I've learned how difficult it is to get all the puzzle pieces together. That's why I don't mind reading this before seeing the movie. It doesn't spoil anything for me, since I'm at at a point where I'm trying to learn to write stories.
I'm sure you'll get slammed on this one, but I found a lot of points to be poignant and educational. I've read Stanislowski's book and really tried grasping the notion of being within a character. Your APT has really helped me to translate what I feel into my animations. I still look forward, maybe even moreso now, to seeing Up (at Imax). And I will really try to find those points you mentioned. Who knows, I might be sold by the montage.

reynante said...

I still read this article all the way 'till the end (and it didn't [I hope] spoil anything in behalf of the movie). I haven't watched the film yet, and am really eager to now. But only if I see what Pixar has been up to on this film and like what rumour has spread that there's something new on this, I might just sit back and "be" in it.

"But there's a difference between a revitalized old man and a strong young man." -HmmmMm, yeah. Physically speaking, you're right, Keith. There's indeed a difference between an aged man (with aged cells and bone structure, etc.) to that of an excited man (with fresh cells still).

I still have to watch it to see how it affects my kind mind somehow. ^_^

Thanks for the review (actually, I'm hands down).

-Reyn

Anonymous said...

Keith I have to agree with you on many points. I liked the film, it was entertaining, it was beautiful to look at but I don't know if I would rank it as one of my Pixar favorites.

For me there was just so much to buy into and except without question in order to enjoy the story. The movie teetered back and forth between semi-real characters and pure animation world craziness I had a hard time knowing what the rules of the world were.

Andrew Lee said...

Still haven't seen it, however I did get a chance to see the montage from the beginning.

Gotta say that I liked it. It didn't move me to the point of tears, but I think that it served it's purpose. But I just wanted to throw something out there to see if it sticks.

You made a point about the argument in "The Incredibles". You said that it sold their believability. It seems that a seen like that would be neccesary to convince you of their humanity because they are "super" beings. As super beings they are unrelatable to us mere mortals. Make them argue, fuss and fight like a real family and they come down to our level.

Where as Carl and Ellie are human, we relate to them because we are flesh and blood and nothing more...same as them (figuratively speaking). To make them more heroic, they have to overcome their conflict in a "more than human way".

or to put it another way....

I remember how perfect my grandparents were, how perfect their marriage was because it lasted for 50 years.

I remember how heroic they are in my memories. I also remember how disappointed I was when I realized how many mistakes they made and how unperfect it was at times.

Sure I can relate to them now because they're human and make mistakes, but I lost a certain amount of "amazement" in the process.

As for Carl and Ellie, sure you need to address the "kids" issue, show some conflict in their lives. But perhaps the meaning of the montage was simply to show how much they loved each other, regardless of the hand they were dealt, tap into that "my grandparents always loved each other no matter what and they're perfect" kinda feeling in the audience.

Maybe they weren't trying to show the humanity or realness of their relationship...but the legacy of their relationship. The things Carl would want to remember.

I don't know....like i said I haven't seen it all, just the montage, so I could be so far off base it's not even funny.

Anonymous said...

It's funny actually, my coworkers and I have recently discussed all our favorite and least favorite Pixar flicks. We really surprised ourselves, in that we all had strong likes and dislikes, hits and misses that varied all across the spectrum. One guy didn't like WallE, much to our surprise. I personally never dug Finding Nemo, much to the chagrin of many my coworkers. The characters and their conflicts just didn't impress me. That being said, I think we all have those stories that do and don't connect with us.

Heh, you truly can't please all people all the time.

Emily said...

Hi Keith-

Thank you so much for your post! I felt like I was the only one (who didn't like UP). There should be an UP Un-enthusiasts Anonymous (U.U.A.) club, or something. We need therapy (kidding there, of course).

Your review was the best one of seen yet that tackles the question of "Why didn't I enjoy it?" You did a better job explaining than I did. If you want to see what I wrote anyways though, check it:
tomboycomics.blogspot.com

Only one professional critic gave UP a negative review. Somehow I find that unsettling...

Thad said...

I find that I'm less forgiving to Pixar because of its formulas, its status as a leader, its cultish following (you can't pretend it isn't, especially in this day and age), and frankly because I don't find CGI appealing at all.

They are silly, relatively empty, and modestly decent movies, just like some of the Disney features of the Golden Age. That does not mean they aren't fun or entertaining, because they are. But I think that's what's causing the cheerleading, because they're making, just that, modestly decent movies, in an era of filth. I mean, could anyone sit through the trailers before "Up" without squirming?

But I liked THE INCREDIBLES.

Thanks for the commentary, Keith.

Anonymous said...

I felt like Ellie stole the show, I bought into the first act, even though it was quick and without conflict, probably because I just like love stories and don't need them to be bumpy (or accepted that it was a montage so why show the bumps)

But once Carl was alone, eh, what do I care. For me the true emotions was the love they had as a couple. All the interactions between Carl and Russel and Munz and Dug, were all superficial little fleeting emotions that don't connect or matter much to me.

It did bug me how strong Carl got at the end, becoming Indiana Jones and zip lining with his walker. But for more then half the movie I could roll with him with his walker.

And yeah, kind of formulaic. I tried to avoid seeing any of the movie before hand, but the few commercials I did see gave me enough info to lay out the movie right away.

Eh I liked it, but I think I liked Monster's Inc more.

Anonymous said...

Keith, you should never expect to be flamed for a review like this: thoughtful, comprehensive, and always making clear where and why you're arguing from. I can't believe that even people who worked on it themselves would be angry with you for it, only disappointed. I mean, I'd be hurt, assuming that I loved the finished product I'd worked on, to read your reservations and criticisms, but anyone who is invested in their work is going to feel that way as they're only human and they gave it their all, hoping it would work.

I haven't seen it yet. Perhaps I have expectations that are too high, perhaps you did--but I doubt it for me. I have in some ways pretty simple criteria for going along with a film: I don't want to be bored/want to be surprised, and I want sincerity and fun. "Fun" can be tragedy, by the way--King Lear or Hamlet or Dark Victory can be fun, crying can be fun. If you know what I mean.

So I'll see. I always bring all my own personal experience right into the theater seat with my milk duds, so I really have no idea how I'll react, but it won't decree whether the film is "brilliant", good or not so good--it'll just be my take.

I'm especially curious about the opening with Ellie. I've lost my life partner recently after two decades. We had no kids and plenty of regrets along with lots of joy, and we were total opposites. So, I could cry buckets, or because of my own experience I may find that for me my real life reality trumps animated reality and renders it ineffectual. There's no way to know until I'm sitting there; it's all so subjective.
But I'm sure that the emotion presented is done with sincerity, not cynical calculation. Not that you suggested that--I'm just positive that the people involved really put their feelings into it. And I'm such a sucker for dogs!

Again, though-nice piece of writing.

The M. Tylerbot said...

I know this is an old post but just need to add another hater to the list.

Up wasn't the worst 'Xar movie but it was by no means better than mediocre.

Had a hard time relating to and feeling for the characters as well as getting too tangled up with the discontinuity, rules, and boundaries of the 'world'.

One thing I do give props to the movie for is pushing the creativity envelope with design and believability ( with certain aspects). They did not play it "Hollywood safe" with this movie by making the hero a senior citizen who kids may have a hard time relating to. I applaud them for that, but making dogs fly planes and cook gourmet dinner? No.

Wonkey the Monkey said...

Ok, I feel the unfortunate need to respond, not to the original posting or any one, specific comment, but to an attitude that I've been noticing.

Critics of "Up", particularly amateur critics in the comments of blogs, keep saying "this movie was not very good because it didn't move me," or "it just didn't get to me," or "I just couldn't connect with it." Tylerbot goes so far as to say that it's only mediocre because he "Had a hard time relating to and feeling for the characters as well as getting too tangled up with the discontinuity, rules, and boundaries of the 'world'."

Look, I appreciate good criticism. Mr. Lango's original post was thoughtful and even kind of brave. He addressed specific problems he had with the movie, covering the spectrum from emotional content to technical execution.

What bugs me is when people assume their own inability to connect with the movie is automatically a failure on the part of the movie and not on the part of the viewer. The implied chain of judgment goes "I couldn't relate to the movie THEREFORE the movie is unrelatable THEREFORE it's not very good."

I propose that if you start from the outside and work in, a more honest assessment might be "Lots of people related to this movie BUT I didn't THEREFORE the movie was not designed for my specific emotional needs."

"I didn't enjoy it" is not the same as "it wasn't very good."

Liezl said...

I am endlessly grateful that my fellow classmate pointed out your review to me because for the last week I've been saying the exact same things (although perhaps not with as much clarity). I'm in a 3D program at Vanarts, and all I've been hearing from my classmates is how wonderful and spectacular they found the story and characters and how moving they found it. I went to go see the film the opening day before the rest of them so I didn't have their word of how wonderful the film is before I went to go see it and had what I feel is an untainted perception of the story, that is uninfluenced by my friends going on and on about how great it is. Leaving the theater I felt that yes, the film was good, but it was ONLY good. I was all prepared to discuss with my fellow classmates why it wasn't as emotionally touching as previous Pixar films once they went to go see it too. I admit I was highly surprised when they went to go see it and returned with nothing but praise for the emotional weight of the film, up to the point where I was beginning to wonder if we'd watched separate movies or something. I was even more surprised that I could not find a single person who shared my thoughts that although good, the film just was not very strong. Every-one online as well as in person seemed to only speak of it with misty eyes recalling how moving they found the montage and the great love Carl had for his wife. Personally, and this is going to make me sound extremely snarky, but I found my mind wandering during the montage.

I personally haven't heard any-one compare it to a Miyazaki and I must say I'm glad because the first thing I said top a friend upon leaving the theater was "I don't think Up accomplished the feeling of air that 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky' did. Miyazaki has a much better grasp on that feeling of empty space between you and the ground." I am irked when people seem to say the exact opposite nearly word for word to something I don't think to be true. But that's just me.

I enjoyed Dug (Although, I thought it was 'Doug' but I guess I'm wrong) very much myself, I also found Kevin's character great, simply because I completely bought the whole 'bird' thing she had about her. I also found her almost dinosaur like threatening behaviour towards Carl when she first appears to be wonderful. However I agree with your thoughts on mortality, age and injury. saying anything more would just be repeating what you've already said.

I want to sincerely thank you for putting down your thoughts because I was starting to feel as if I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone or something, up to the point where my frustrations were starting to make me resent the film as I really just wanted to stand up and shout "Look people! It's good but I'm sorry, it's just not that great!"

I feel also I should mention that my grandmother died last October and my widowed grandfather has and still is going through a cripplingly hard grieving process, and yet Up STILL didn't stir anything in me. THAT is a major failure on the films part that me, whose recently experienced a death in the family first hand could not feel an emotional connection to it.

I thought perhaps it was merely a culture thing as I'm not from North America. I'm glad to find I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

I do tend to agree and disagree with a few points. I 100% agree with carl becoming a 70-something year old super hero, impervious to physical disability, for the most part. That area could have been better. Why does Russell get tired and he doesn't? By all accounts it should have been the other way around.

In any case, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. And yes, Dug was awesome.

"Squirrel!"

Harry said...

I felt the same exact way about the opening sequence, I just couldn't put my finger exactly why I felt that way until I read what you wrote. I thought of it as not wanting to be force fed how to feel about a character. I want to like and pull for a character based their actions and emotions throughout the movie- not just being told at the beginning- "Here's the hero, you like him and here's why"

Well put

Ross Moshell said...

Keith my man, aside from your thoughts on the opening montage, I completely agree with your review. I was just pretty much "meh" all the way through.

My review: 'B' http://reviewloft.com/reviews/1107

Nancy said...

Mr. Lango, I agree with you and could add a lot more. The film lost me about ten minutes in.
Technically it was superb, of course, but animated film has to bring you into its world and keep you believing in it. This film simply did not do it for me.

Anonymous said...

Lango for years you have been a genius. Now your age may have made you dumb.

Roberto González said...

I loved the film. And I'm not a sucker for emotional films. The initial montage didn't "move" me a lot and I'd even agree it's "superficial"-as a description of a life it's- but it still talks about life and death, that's a very serious thing to talk about in an animated movie. I just think this is the set-up for the rest of the story. This gives Carl a motivation. Perhaps the movie is a little too manipulative on this part (there are way too many moments with Carl remembering things about Ellie) but I do like how he somewhat finds that he has to live his life at a certain moment. That's a less sappy message.

Still, for the most part I think this is a mixture of comedy and adventure, not a drama, and I think the interactions between Carl, Russell, Dug and Kevin were really funny. This movie is full of character based gags and in that respect is better than , let's say, Ratatouille. Maybe you think Carl is not a strong character but I believe Remy is a lot more generic than Carl. In fact Up has pretty specific characters. Russell is fat yet hiperactive, a boy scout that's kind of clumsy, he has an american name but he's of asian origins, he's determined but not always very smart.

The action/adventure scenes were highly enjoyable too and the fantasy elements were very original. So here it's an adventure/fantasy movie that has original characters, beautiful visuals, good action scenes and funny gags. Even if the dramatic moments didn't move you, what's not to like?

And nope, I don't think Carl being agile is such a big deal either. Scrooge McDuck is usually seen with a cane too, yet he's normally very agile when it comes to adventure. Carl is not fragile, he's just depressed. In the first scenes he moves slowly but he's still very determined to keep his house and nobody has been capable to change his mind. He is strong since the very beginning of the film. Imagining this in live action is not a good excuse either, personally I think a cartoon should benefit of this kind of licenses. That's what I like the most about this movie personally. Unlike other Pixar movies it looked a little more like a funny cartoon or comic strip. It had dramatic elements but the characters were cartoons at hearth, and that, for me,makes them funnier.

jevi said...

Finally I got to see Up, a full two months since the US release, and I must say I really enjoyed it, although I wasn't that moved by the all-important first montage I did connect with the characters enough for me to enjoy it.

You mention not really remembering the film two days after seeing it, however you did remember the film enough to write a lengthy review. I think the mere fact you reviewed it means you did like it to an extent, I haven't read any reviews for Monsters vs. Aliens from you, that must mean something.

Finally, I am astounded by some comments here suggesting they actually saw animation errors that animators and supervising animators at Pixar didn't see. That is one bold statement. (Really? ... I mean, really?!)

Take care Keith! :)

Keith Lango said...

@jevi: I suppose the fact that I did review it means something. The reason I haven't reviewed MVA, Mad2, IA3 or any of those is because I haven't seen them yet. And I do agree- that says something, too. ;)

jevi said...

LOL, fair enough :) I just assumed you wouldn't miss MVA after Kung Fu Panda, I know that was the only reason I saw it, and it turned out to be a huge dissapointment...

Have a good one! :D

Hedda Chedda said...

Thank you for your candid review of Up! I wondered if I had seen the same movie as the media. I felt the movie was not up to Pixar's normal clever storyline standards. Somewhere along the way, they lost sight of the story and it felt like they were just showing off new effects. I love dogs, but didn't feel like the dogs' voices were believable. For me, this movie was a letdown. The first Pixar movie I didn't want to see twice! My boyfriend, who is an animator, also thought it bombed. Better luck on the next one, Pixar! Pay more attention to the characters and the writing next time.