I find it rather difficult to decide what i want to say about Up in this review: I am glad i've seen it, as i like Pixar's work and am happy to see any of their films at least once ~ and there are still several i've not seen, though one less now; on the other hand, i found it curiously unsatisfying, much more so than any other Pixar film i've seen. I hope they haven't lost their touch, that this was simply an aberration or, as may be more likely, just something that did not work for me, however well it may have been received (i really have no idea of its reception, so that statement is simply guesswork).
So, to explore my reaction, i start with the thing which Pixar says is at the heart of every one of their films, story. I really found the story troubling, i have no other word for it. The first minute or so sets up the plot, an explorer returning to the wilds to redeem his name. The next five to ten minutes tell the lovely and touching story of a boy and his neighbour who grow up together in admiration of the explorer, with determination to follow in his footsteps; they appear to have a lovely romance, marry, and live happily together; like so many things in so many lives, their plans do not come to fruition, and she eventually dies, leaving him an apparently bitter old man. The rest of the film recounts how this man defies the world he lives in, is brought to a new humanity by a small boy, and discovers the feet of clay of his childhood hero, in the process attempting to fulfil the ambition he and his wife had always had. The problem that i have is that by far the nicest character in the film is killed off within the first ten minutes, and from that point on it seems a let-down.
There are also a number of plot points left unanswered that, under usual circumstances i don't think i would be bothered by but, with the big plot problem mentioned above, they bother me now. For example, how could the explorer possibly be still alive and so active as he is some fifty years, at least, after he left civilisation the second time? Is there some non-aging characteristic to the atmosphere in this lost world area? Has he discovered the fountain of youth? Whatever the answer, it ought to have played some part in the story. Another annoyance: How has the explorer managed to create devices which allow his dogs to talk? It's a nice conceit, but needs some kind of explanation. How does his device interpret what the dogs think? Why does the alpha dog talk with a foreign accent? Questions that are demanding to be answered because the story is not strong enough to hold mine attention.
To move on from the story, the quality of the rest of the production is, as always, very good. The animation is well done, though less realistic or believable than in some other of Pixar's films (i believe in Woody and Buzz, for example, because they appear real; the explorer is the only character here who has that same reality appearance, which makes the rest of them less believable, though not less visually enjoyable). The actors lending their voices to the production are well chosen and have given enjoyable performances. Always a pleasure to hear Cliff Claven's distinctive sound in one of these films. Production values, then, whatever exactly that phrase means, seem not to have been lost.
My only issue with the film is with the story ~ unfortunately, arguably, the most important feature about it. I wonder if this slip by Pixar has anything to do with the fact that they were bought by Disney, as opposed to merely having a distribution agreement with them, at some point before it was made. I have no reason to think that Disney would mess up Pixar's abilities; it is simply a guess based on timing and result (and, admittedly, the fact that like much of corporate America, Disney has a habit of steamrollering anything which does not fit its own “values”). Whatever the reason, though, i was disappointed by Up, and hope that the next film i watch from this studio will have a better focus on story.