If most animated movies – Ice Age, Madagscar, Shark Tale – are little more satisfying or memorable than the Happy Meals that advertise them, then Up is the really good meal out you treat yourself to once or twice year. Not quite the best meal you’ll have, not perfect – some of the flaws may even be glaring – but it’s still special.
Pixar, you see, dare to go another mile with animation. I wouldn’t call this a kids’ film – it’s a family one, in the very best sense of that. The sort of film you see as a family and use it to talk with the children afterwards that scares them and you. Issues like being trapped by life or death of a family member; what you want to do with your life or the importance of not missing out on what life has for you. Wall-E was one of the best films of the year it was released in; not least for the largely silent opening section of Wall-E fruitlessly cleaning up a deserted planet. It never quite hit those heights again, but it’s charm, wit and humour enabled the big issues facing as individuals and a planet to raised and discussed. A rare thing in animation, and exactly what makes it such a good family film.
Up is, for me, similar. It’s opening 20 and it’s last 10 minutes are heart rending and brilliant. Marriage, childlessness, death, fatherlessness – all touched and handled. The rest of the film dips – at times alarmingly and predictably. That’s not always bad – the talking animal stuff is given an original spin with the dogs, for example. The problem comes when the characters’ quests are actually underway and the plot is in gear – it’s all just a little flat and formulaic in the way the film’s top and tail isn’t. That, though, is the film’s point – be careful what you wish for as it may be under your nose. Like Wall-E, Up falls short of the Toy Story films (or at least my memory of them) when they reach the films’ main body. Faint praise? It’s not meant to be. This is still a film to treasure and remember; but not, ultimately, the best of it’s kind.