Pixar, in my opinion, shares some similarities with Studio Ghibli – they both put out, rather consistently, well-made films that are miles above the competition. Now, I wouldn’t say that Pixar has ever managed to reach the heights that Ghibli did with Mononoke-hime or Grave of the Fireflies, but all the same, their movies are enjoyable and imaginative without insulting your intelligence. Just like with many Ghibli films, while they may seem like children’s films at first glance, they are universal in their appeal, and try to use animation to come up with some creative concepts instead of just appease kids with flashy colours. Now, with that being said, I’m only going to compare Up! with other Pixar films because nothing really stands up against direct comparison with Ghibli.
My verdict: Up! is a smart and creative film which places itself somewhere in the middle of the Pixar line – not quite as good as Finding Nemo, but better than Cars. The storyline begins with a short prelude of sorts – two young kids meet and become friends based on a shared love for adventure (and desire to go to Paradise Falls in South America). They grow up, marry, have a happy (but childless, against their wish) life. All this is shown as a montage at the beginning. Where the film really begins the bulk of the story is when we see Carl, the young boy with whom we began the film, as an old man, a widower, living alone is his home as construction workers tear up his environment. On the day that he is supposed to be taken to a retirement home, Carl ties balloons to his chimney and both he and his home fly away into the sky, to finally reach Paradise Falls and fulfil the promise he had made with his wife. Oh, and there’s a young ambitious boy who accidentally finds himself a stowaway on this floating house (he had been trying to help Carl in order to earn his final badge for “helping the elderly”).
As you can see, there’s quite a brisk pace in the first moments of the film, but it slows down as it becomes clear that the focus of this story is going to be the trip to reach Paradise Falls. The beginning of the film has a more “adult” slant to it (this is Pixar, after all), but the bulk of film is in more familiar territory for a “children’s film”. Which, I guess, isn’t a bad thing if you’re a kid. If you’re an older Pixar fan, it might be disappointing that they’ve succumbed to doing some more obviously childish things (like talking dogs riding airplanes). One aspect I liked was that although Carl flies to Paradise Falls in his house, he reaches the mountain within minutes – but has to haul his house to the right spot for the remainder of the movie. A very Pixar-ish thing to do.
So, my opinion is that the film works very well in some areas and less in others. The beginning of the film is very well-done, but the quality is lost in some of the more action oriented scenes. Kids will be entranced throughout, but the older fans might not be as captivated during some of the later scenes as they were during Ratatouille or Finding Nemo.
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