cross-posted from me TUMBLR!
up is like one of those japanese toilets that cleans your bum, but instead of your bum, it cleans your SOUL. … or at least your cinematic palette, already dirtied by earlier summer fare in this still-young season. more brazenly evocative of miyazaki than any pixar movie before it - and more consistent than any since finding nemo - up is a wonderful little adventure as deeply focused as it is felt. i was a wee bit nervous about up, because director pete docter is responsible for my least favorite pixar project, Monsters, Inc. (by a LONG shot), and the truly uninspired short that preceded the movie only added to my anxiety. but seriously… it took UP about 10 minutes to introduce simple yet lived-in characters, provide a master-class in montage, literally evoke citizen kane, and bring me to the brink of tears. docter isn’t fucking around this time.
docter - often considered to be the most sentimental and kid-friendly director in the pixar stable - might initially seem like an odd choice of helmer for this project, as UP is easily the pixar film most intimately acquainted with death, loss, and heartbreak. there’s even some blood! but - SQUIRREL! - our elderly hero’s curmudgeonly qualities as well as the impetus behind his quest to south america not only prohibits potentially distracting elements (talking dogs, fat kids) from being anything other than joyful creations, but also allows them to prove themselves perfect emotional / thematic foils. in fact, for a film that’s narrative is exclusively concerned with a single story arc, it’s extremely impressive just how nicely UP prioritizes its interests. the jaunty tale never so much as flirts with the notion of a sentimental siesta (and packs plenty of punch into the few moments in which it elects to grab the emotional reigns), and also provides more subtextual sustenance for those who care to chew on than any other pixar film (most of which concerns the dynamic between property and desire, the essence of adventure, and even the increasingly complicated interplay between cinema and those for whom it paints the modern world beyond their walls).
that it doesn’t get side-tracked by bizarre threads (ratatouille’s stealing motif) or succumb to the unexciting demands of conventional storytelling (wall-e’s third act), just sweetens the deal. sure, i wish up were afforded a bit more breathing room, and yeah, some bits (particularly the super-fun finale) are so indebted to miyazaki that it not only distracts, but also provides for a comparison as unfavorable as it is unfair… but by the time that fading final shot sinks in, i didn’t really care. this is the best movie of this young summer, and certainly among the best of the year thus far. it makes the prospect of the inexplicably forthcoming CARS 2 that much more frustrating.