Review: ‘Up’ on Blu-ray
Pixar’s command of digital animation has captivated an entire generation of viewers and with Up
, its tenth film, it has actually taken some interesting chances. First, they focused on a senior citizen, the very demographic totally abandoned by Hollywood despite the longevity now being enjoyed by many.
It also decided to take storytelling chances by stretching how many absurdities we can accept in a single film. Previously, we were asked to accept one major concept per film: toys that can talk, a world powered by children’s screams, and so on. Here, we’re being asked to accept an awful lot and frankly, sitting through the film, I think it asked for too much.
Up arrives on DVD tomorrow and comes in Walt Disney Home Video’s controversial multi-package format. The Blu-ray edition contains four discs: the film and extras, a second disc of extras, the film and some extras on standard DVD and a disc with a digital copy. On the one hand, it’s nice to have this package because eventually we’ll all be using Blu-ray so we avoid buying the movie twice. On the other, it’s pricey for people not willing to make the leap for years to come.
The film’s best sequence is the opening ten minutes known as “Married Life”, which details the meeting and evolving relationship between Carl and Ellie. It’s incredibly poignant and moving, aided tremendously by Michael Giacchino’s score. From there, we meet 78-year old, arthritic Carl, every bit the curmudgeon he appears. Wonderfully voiced by Ed Asner, he’s done with life and just wants the world to leave him alone. Sadly, the world wants to move ahead and is busily construction mammoth commercial buildings around his home.
Finally forced to move to an assisted living facility, Carl decides to escape to Paradise Falls, the one place he and Ellie wanted to visit and never found the time and/or money. Here’s where we’re asked for the big leap of faith: overnight, be fills 10,000 balloons with helium, rigs steering gear, and in the morning, launches his home into the air for the trip to South America.
OK, let’s accept that. Let’s also add in the Russell, the young Asian Wilderness Explorer trapped on the porch when the house broke free of its foundation. Their odd couple relationship will form the spine of film and that’s fine. Now, the house miraculously makes it to Paradise Falls and there’s when things go off the rails. First, we have a pack of dogs each equipped with a collar that translates their growls to human speech, allowing communication. A wondrous piece of technology that would make its inventor world famous and fabulously wealthy. Instead, the inventor, 90 year old Charles Muntz, remains in self-imposed exile, seeking the rare bird whose capture will repair his reputation, spoiled decades earlier when scientists questioned the validity of the bones he brought back from one of his celebrated expeditions.
Once Carl and Russell meet Muntz, the film no longer feels like a Pixar classic, but instead a pale imitator as your credulity is stretched beyond belief time and again. The climax, a battle between geriatrics, is impossible to accept given the athleticism each displays despite their previously established infirmities. Fortunately, the final scenes come back to familiar Pixar territory and ends on a satisfying note. As a result, Up the movie is a mixed bag and far from its best work.
The extras on the discs, though, show the level of attention that went into each and every aspect of the film from studying the way seniors moved to house architecture. There are several mini-documentaries adding up to over 40 minutes of nifty behind the scenes information. Best of the eight may well be the piece on Giacchino and the scoring for the movie. There’s also the film in Cine-Explore track as the directors, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, discuss the making of the film, complete with designs, sculptures and other visual details popping up on screen. The main disc also offers up two shorts: Dug’s Special Mission and Partly Cloudy. Another short bit is a look at various ways Muntz’s story came to an end.
The second disc, in addition to the documentaries, offers up a nice piece on the development of “Married Life” and them shows a storyboarded alternative approach, equally effective. Finally, there’s the Global Guardian Badge Game, an interactive trivia game that earns you badges of increasing complexity. It uses the BD Live feature which is nice for those so inclined.
A somewhat good, somewhat flawed film is well packaged and offers up much for families and film enthusiasts to enjoy.