Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Two Thumbs Way...

Did the pun almost kill you too? Given Pixar's stellar record on films not relating to living race cars, I didn't have too many doubts that this movie would be six kinds of awesomeness. And even if I am saying this about a movie involving a house flying via the awesome power of balloons and tablecloths, it's such a mature piece (from an emotional standpoint at least) to significantly defy the idea of being a movie for kids. Click below for the full review and another stop on our summer movie ride.

When I talk about the maturity of this film, a great deal of that stems from the fact that despite the youthful "recognize life as an adventure and keep on living it" message, the main driving point of the movie revolves around a death. Even if they've repeatedly been praised for making movies for both adults and children, all of their films carry the same Capra-esque vibe. Woody and Buzz will always be reunited with Andy. The bugs will always defeat the grasshoppers. Monsters will power their city with children's laughter. The Incredibles will always end up as the Pixar equivalent of the Fantastic Four. And nothing utterly devastating will ever happen to anybody... unless you still haven't gotten over the fact that Buzz Lightyear can't fly.

But rather than just making a cute movie about a grumpy old man and a cute, silly kid, the first significant 10-15 minutes of the movie is working a character deeply into our hearts and killing her off. I don't think I've seen a handful of movie characters I loved as much so instantly as Ellie. Off the top of my head, the list is limited to Crash Davis, Rick Blaine, Sabrina Fairchild, Red from Shawshank and any member of the Magnificent Seven. Seeing her life with Carl absolutely makes the movie something more important. If we just started out with grumpy Ed Asner, we'd have to slowly uncover his history and it still wouldn't fully resonate. But this opening, scored absolutely perfectly by Michael Giacchino, has let me empathize completely with Carl's character. Ellie was that bright shining center to EVERYthing and now it's gone. Maybe this is because I'm a 60-year-old curmudgeon stuffed into a 28-year-old body, but I was actually in a sour mood for the next twenty or so minutes right along with Carl. And while I'm not the biggest fan of going to movies to feel shitty about life (if I was, I would probably watch Aronofsky films more often), it's impressive to get so sucked into a character's attitude.

The majority of the rest of the film is standard issue Pixar. It's at time funny for the kids (though substantively less often than previously) and there is of course a message worn proudly on it's sleeve. A clear bad-guy and dogs being silly and all the parts of the movie that kids will love and I'll surely enjoy on repeat viewings. In particular everything involving Dug and Alpha's voice box is pure gold. All that is fine and I'm proudly on the bandwagon proclaiming The Incredibles , WALL-E and the like as some of the very best and most under-appreciated films every year. But those first 15 minutes absolutely make the movie for me. I absolutely didn't cry (Field of Dreams remains the lone film that can utterly devastate and enthrall me consistently), but it got dusty.

I don't want to be too harsh on the bulk of the movie. By the end, like Carl, even I began to appreciate the idea that while we're alive there are still adventures to be had and sometimes you have to let go of the past to a degree. Even as I'm writing this two days later I feel bad leaving Ellie behind. Given how little dialogue she has it, like much of the emotional resonance throughout the movie, her impact is sold through Asner's evocative performance, the animator's ability to really break ground in displaying emotion on humans and Giacchino's score which honestly might be the best I've heard in four or five years.

Despite all this, I'm probably selling short the journey of young Russell. He could have just been the cute kid along for the ride to give the younger audience someone to relate to. But his relationship with an absent father, while at times involving and something I can personally relate to, never hits home in the same manner. His mom died, but he has a step-mom. His dad is away all the time, but he has Carl. But nothing will ever replace Ellie for Carl because nothing can replace the entirety of his life. Sometimes moving on has to be enough.

Final score: A


Garrett said...

very nice. I don't think I can relate a Pixar movie to a movie that has Sigourney Weaver banging Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner.

Billy said...

Dude, I'm pretty sure Russell's mother isn't dead. In fact, I'm fairly certain that his mother is the woman at the end and his absent father is re-married or has a girlfriend. I, in no way, got the feeling that his mother had died.

I loved the first fifteen minutes, and yeah, I came damned near bawling but didn't(by the way...this whole saying "it's dusty" or some other variation, is the most fucking retarded thing I've read since the last time I read Sepinwall use it...) but Christ...the rest was cute and sweet...but it was about talking dogs and toucan Sam running from a 90-year-old villian. It didn't really live up to the opening minutes.

And Garrett, what the HELL are you talking about. A.) Jim mentioned FIELD OF DREAMS. Not Bull Durham. B.) Sigourney Weaver isn't EVEN IN Bull Durham! She's in NEITHER of them! Susan Sarandon is in Bull Durham. Sheesh.

Now I sound like a grumpy 90-year-old...

Billy said...

Sorry for sounding like such a cranky-pants. The Pens losing 5-0 in Detroit tends to put me in a foul mood.

Garrett said...

my bad. CHRIST ON A RAZOR!!!!

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