Monday, February 09, 2009

NYCC Sneak Peak at Pixar's Up

The wait was long, the security was draconian, and the room was practically empty... but the payoff was worth it. For a very lucky few, Pixar screened the first 50 minutes of this summer's film, Up. Lucky for us, we were tired enough from a day of running around the con that an hour+ wait in line didn't seem like such a punishment.

I'm not going to break this down with as much detail as the Watchmen open, but to be on the safe side: *Spoiler Alert*... I suppose... mostly because the movie so far has been little more than still images and a pretty teaser-I'm not sure how much marketing will show in the lead up to its release; but I was shocked at the direction the film took. So if you want to go into the movie fresh with no preconceptions, no need to keep reading. Then again, what I say below may very well be revealed in the next trailer, so who knows. Either way, read at your own risk.

Needless to say, Up was not quite what I expected. I was expecting a classic journey tale... perhaps on par with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, or the Wizard of Oz, or Around the World in 80 Days, or, hell, even The Chipmunk Adventure... but the journey aspect of the film was relatively short lived.

That's not to say I was disappointed! Not at all. In fact, within the first 10 minutes, Up had an extended montage sans dialogue that was so unbelievably well executed and heartwarming that I was in tears. I've never cried at the first 10 minutes of a movie. I mean, if I ever cried at movies that is... cause I don't... cause only girls cry at movies... Anyhow, this montage will surely secure its place in cinema history. Talking afterwards, AHR suggested Pixar make an entire movie without dialogue... brilliant. Between this montage and the first 30 minutes of Wall-E, critics and fans alike should be clamoring for the same thing.

Anyway, broad strokes: Ed Asner's curmudgeonly Mr. Fredrickson is completely lovable, Jordan Nagai's 9 year old Wilderness Scout, Russell, is spotlight-hoggingly humorous (if at times a tad overbearing), and the balloon house is, frankly, awesome. Now here's where it gets a bit bonkers. Did you know there was going to be a goofy, giant mythic bird... or talking dogs? Me neither. Well there is. And they're all very funny. In fact, even if the journey element of the film seems short lived, Up has retained one of my favorite archetypes of the journey film: the assembling of the motley crew. And at the end of our allotted 50 minutes, it was quite a lovable team-I'd gladly sit through another 40 minutes watching this bizarrely mismatched group of explorers (you got your old man, your goofy kid, your dopey talking dog, and your wide-eyed, dodo-esque bird... what more do you people want?!?).

But all of this leaves me wondering if Up is more akin to a Dreamworks film... not that that's a bad thing-I loved Kung Fu Panda... but I worry that it may be lacking some sort of particular Pixar charm. I'm not sure what exactly... but something seemed missing. In fact, had it not been for the brilliant montage at the beginning, this could have passed for any other company's film; still great-but maybe not Pixar great. Again, this all sounds negative, but I left that screening smiling. And I'm wiling to wait till May for Pixar to prove me wrong again-they have many times in the past. Besides, I think they've earned a little blind faith over the past few years (at least enough to overlook Cars and pretend they have a perfect track record).


Nick SantaCroce said...

Never saw Cars, Didn't really like Wall-e... But I liked the teaser for Up quite a bit, and I'll take your word for this one Davey.

Anonymous said...

Watched Cars, really liked Wall-E :) Those who would still like to watch these animation, here are rapidshare links for Wall-E and Cars. Hope, you'll enjoy!

Jimmy said...

Don't know if any other CG studio would make a film with an old man and a house of balloons :)

Anyway, just like you said, it's because of those scenes that nail you with the characters, Pixar films are set apart from others'. Without the barracuda scene, Finding Nemo would be just a cartoon in the sea. Without the silent sequences, WALL-E wouldn't be as great. You can't take those away, the rest would be ordinary because every film has its mediocrity, even the greatest. Having said that, I believe Up will be that Pixar-level great.