I’m not a huge Pixar fan. I admire their technical abilities, but I don’t worship every film they make. I liked Wall-E quite a bit, but Finding Nemo bored me and Ratatouille was excruciatingly bad (and racist to boot). I’m not one of the people who immediately light up the moment they hear the word Pixar.
I say all this so that you fully appreciate it when I say that Up is a truly brilliant movie. A masterpiece. An amazing work of art that succeeds greatly in almost all the aspects of its medium (great writing, beautiful visuals, perfect actors) and fails in none (the music is good and effective, if not entirely memorable).
Up is, quite simply, absolutely fantastic.
I’m not going to say too much about the plot, because you should go and see the film. The trailer does not do it justice even remotely, even though it’s cute. (Actually, I’m glad the trailer didn’t spoil as much of the film as a lot of trailers do.)
But let me say a couple of things about what makes this film work so well, apart from the enormous technical talent involved in its making.
Up is hilarious – a lot funnier than any other Pixar movie I’ve seen. It is also extremely touching, and at times quite enormously sad. And I think that one reason the movie is so funny is that it’s also got sad parts. The sweet is never as sweet without the sour, as Brian Shelby might say. The first five or ten minutes of the movie are just heartbreaking, and the central theme of those minutes is revisited repeatedly throughout the movie, and creates an underlying seriousness to the events. And thanks to this emotional seriousness, the audience is so deeply invested in everything that is going on that they experience the humour a lot more strongly, and appreciate it a lot more.
This isn’t just a technical aspect of how the movie is structured: it is a matter of philosophy. The tragedy at the heart of the movie is profoundly real, and as such lets us profoundly appreciate the beautiful and funny parts of life.
A film that tells us that the world is all laughs and shopping bags must by its very nature fail, because it’s lying to us. But a film that tells us that life is often overwhelmed by unbearable heartbreak, yet is nevertheless full of laughter and adventure and beauty, is a film that is accomplishing the highest purpose of art: showing us the truth in all its complex glory.