Up ★★★★

Watched in preparation for Pete Docter's newest film, Inside Out.

Although I like Up quite a bit, I still don't find it to be the masterpiece other people say it is. Yes, it goes without saying that the first ten minutes are absolutely brilliant, flawless even. From the opening bit of exposition to the utterly astonishing montage showing the relationship between Carl and Ellie over the course of several decades, the filmmakers managed to create possibly the greatest thing to come out of the studio. Hell, it might even be one of the greatest movie moments of the 21st century! Every single time I watch it, I'm completely taken by the craftsmanship put into the visual composition, musical accompaniment, and all the other aspects that make that intro as fantastic as it is. I still stand by the fact that that montage could be presented as a short film and it would still have the same emotional impact even without context.

And yet, these perfect ten minutes set a standard that the rest of the film can't live up to. Once the story packs more characters in, such as the boy scout and the "talking" dogs, it suddenly broadens its scope, losing a good chunk of the emotional center it initially set up. To its credit, the film does attempt to make these characters have connection to the protagonist, Carl, particularly with how the owner of the dogs is connected to Carl's past. But these elements still take away from that emotional focal point between Carl and Ellie that was so promising. In fact, the scene near the end of the second act where Carl flips through the later pages of the "Adventure Book" makes for one of the most emotional scenes because at that moment, we get to take another glimpse why he decided to tie up hundreds of balloons to his house in the first place: to fulfill a loved one's dream.

I'm almost kind of mad that Docter and crew did such an incredible job early on because if you take that part out, the remaining hour and fifteen minutes are still vastly entertaining. The humorous moments still hit their mark (SQUIRREL!), the pacing never drags for a second, and the animation is of the usual Pixar standard of "downright breathtaking". Not to mention, it is really refreshing to see a modern family film with a protagonist that's a senior citizen. I certainly can't think of any other recent animated film where the main character is this old.

While Up is dangerously close to being Pixar's most overhyped film (this and The Incredibles are neck-and-neck to take that claim), it still makes for a complete charmer from beginning to end. As with Monsters, Inc., Pete Docter proves that he's someone to keep an eye on, and it's with these two films that I am looking forward to Inside Out with much anticipation.

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