Sunday, May 31, 2009

Up to no great (or: Pixar is overrated)

I, like about $68.2 million worth of my peers, saw Up this weekend -- and no, that doesn't mean I aimed my eyes at the sky.

Funny thing is, although the film is set partially in a house that -- powered by balloons -- flies to South America, neither did Up. Instead, Up did what most Pixar movies do: It shot lower and hit its mark.

( with the pic)

That's not to say the film isn't good. It is. But "good" is they key word here, because what it does well -- it's about as emotionally grabbing as any film I've seen, and really leaves you wanting to hug somebody -- is offset partially by the same thing that hindered Wall-E and some of the other offerings from the unthinkable-to-question* animation studio: After unfurling another of its creative setups (this one involving a lonely widower fulfilling an unusual promise to his late wife), it devolves into formula (this one an "edge-of-your-seat" action finale that left me nowhere near falling off the theater's upholstery).

*Although, it must be noted, I did not like Ratatouille one bit.

Up's downturn isn't nearly as maddening as Wall-E's, since the former never reached the heights of the latter before treading familiar territory (although it did have me near tears earlier than any film I've seen, even my favorite little robot story). Still, it's a disheartening continuation down the "safe" path for the studio. It's like Spielberg's in charge there or something. Even the most original of concepts turn into unoriginal narratives by movie's end. It's as if they're pulling in adults, then pandering to the kiddies.

Although those box office numbers -- and the critical reception -- suggest everyone's pretty much OK with it. So I suppose it's hard to second-guess a studio that kills every time it releases something.

Still, just once, I'd love for that great creative team to go unchecked, offering something as weird and wild and wonderful as, say, The Triplets of Belleville -- in other words, a story that wows just as much as the technique does.

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