Monday, September 7, 2009

"Up" - spoiler movie review (and spoiler notes on "Partly Cloudy" short) and The El Capitan Theatre experience

So with Labor Day being generally regarded as the end of the summer season, Pixar picked summer's end to release their latest animated film called "Up".

Yeah, ok, not so much - the film was actually released a little more than 3 months ago, right after the beginning of the summer season, which was Memorial Day.

And yes, it has taken me all this time to get a review of the film written. Part of my excuse is that I've had problems getting the videos I took at the El Capitan Theatre to work, but that really just turned into a convenient excuse since I was initially going to have separate blog posts for the film (and short) and the theatre experience, so people could read about the El Cap experience without encountering spoilers from the movie since they might not have seen it yet. But with all the time that's passed, I figured that's not really a concern anymore.

The major reason for the delay in writing the review is that I had a much different reaction to the film than a lot of people I know, even more so than with two of Pixar's prior films, "Cars" and "The Incredibles". I liked those films ok generally, but while there were specific bits I liked, they really didn't do that much for me overall, whereas they were favorites of a lot of people. And unlike other animated films from Pixar, I don't really have much of a desire to see either of those films again. And with "Up", I really enjoyed the film, and I thought it had a lot of humour and some really great bits. And inexplicably, even though on paper, it should have, it didn't make me cry. At all. While others were bawling numerous times during the course of the film, me, the one who cries easily at a *lot* of things - radio commercials, random stories, fireworks - did not shed a tear and didn't even come close to shedding a tear. And yeah, I got a lot of flak for that from people who couldn't understand why I didn't cry.

So I decided to give it another chance. I saw the film a second time. Still thought it was funny, still really liked some bits. Still didn't cry, not even close. OK, I give up. I guess I'll just have to settle for being a heartless soul. But I'm not. For whatever reason, this film just didn't hit me like it did most other people. (I think I only found two people among my friends who didn't cry at the film either.)

I loved seeing Ellie as a little girl. She wasn't your typical pretty little princess, and she certainly had spunk, and she was such the opposite of shy, timid, quiet little Carl. And opposites definitely attracted. And we saw in a montage how their life progressed, getting married, not being able to have children, growing old together and yet forever remaining in love, and the devastation when Ellie got sick and died, leaving Carl alone and without her.

There were at least two occasions during that short montage when I know a lot of people cried. I think I didn't because I was too stunned. Pixar had never dealt with such heavy themes before - miscarriage and the inability to have children, and then the on-screen (more or less) death of a beloved mate. Yeah, I know, most of the mothers in Disney animated films are dead before the movie starts, but that's already happened. And yes, Bambi's mother is killed on screen, but I guess to me, that's different, especially since the memory of her death doesn't linger, not like Ellie's does. Ellie's death doesn't render her a distant memory - she is constantly in the story because of her picture and because Carl continues to talk to her and because it's her that really prompts Carl's journey to Paradise Falls. When the montage happened, I was taken off guard because from the previews, I just knew that Carl was an old man alone, but I didn't know that he was alone because he'd lost his soul mate. And I didn't expect that whole story to be told within a matter of minutes. That was the story I wanted to see, that I wanted to spend more time with, and I felt cheated that it was just a summation of their lives. I wanted to know more about what their life was like, even though not much spectacular happened, even though they were never able to go on that trip they had dreamed about.

On a similar note, while I liked the character of Russell, I was again surprised that Pixar had delved into such a heavy topic as his having been basically abandoned by his father, and how much residual hurt that was causing him, how much he wanted that merit badge because it was the means by which he could get closer to his father.

OK, heavy stuff aside, let's get to the other stuff.

The voice talents were good, as you'd expect, and Edward Asner was particularly good as Carl.

Of course, John Ratzenberger was in the film, playing the guy at the construction site this time. Always good to see him in Pixar's films.

I loved the bit with Carl having Russell go snipe hunting and Russell's earnest attempts. "Here snipey snipey snipey."

It was funny that "Kevin" liked chocolate so much. And as for Kevin specifically, I thought the character was actually very well drawn, and I loved the interaction between Kevin and Russell and how Kevin became the impetus for much of what Carl and Russell ended up doing. I was annoyed that I had it spoiled for me that Kevin was actually a girl and was just mis-named by Russell, but those little babies were just incredibly adorable.

And the whole thing with the dogs was just too funny, especially Alpha's little squeaky Alvin-the-Chipmunk voice. And I liked the mix of realistic dog moments and preposterous ones. OK, so the dogs really wouldn't be able to cook scallops and make dinner and open the bottle of champagne, but they're certainly still going to try to steal the hot dog. They're not going to be able to really run a flying blimp, but they're certainly still going to want to chase a tennis ball down the hall. And they might not really be able to fly planes, but they are certainly still going to get their attention diverted by a SQUIRREL! They didn't overplay that bit at all, and I loved that what started as a joke (and we were laughing at that from the time we saw the bit in the first trailer) turned out to be a pivotal changing point of the film.

Even though this film didn't hit me emotionally like it did most other people, seemingly, I would definitely watch it again. I do like the heart of the film and especially the humour.

Showing in front of "Up" was the short film entitled "Partly Cloudy", which was actually quite a nice pairing. I did find the cloud people to be a bit creepy in the way they were drawn, but I loved that the focus of the story was not on the cute and cuddly babies that everyone would normally want to see, but there are lots of animal babies who might not be so soft and cuddly and cute who are also welcomed by their parents and needed in this world. So what if some of them are spiny or bitey or electrified?

We saw "Partly Cloudy" and "Up" on opening night at the El Capitan Theatre.

This is the animated marquee outside the theatre that also includes information about the stage show preceding the film.

And this is the cool "curtain show" that the El Cap implemented some time ago.

As for the stage show itself, there are often times that a new Disney film at the El Cap is accompanied by something special. Sometimes, it might be an exhibit with props and such, and sometimes, it's a new song-and-dance stage show. I've liked some shows better than others, but they're usually a lot of fun overall. This particular show, I found to be a bit odd, partly in costuming, but mostly in the moves that they have the characters doing. Usually, the regular dancers are the ones who do the more modern dance moves while the characters stick to their normal movements, so it was really odd for me to see Mickey and Minnie doing motions that I completely didn't expect from them.

I recorded the entire stage show, but that means it's a fairly hefty file, so the husband broke it up into multiple segments. Here's the first part. Here's the second part. Here's the third part. And here's the last part.

And just for good measure, in case you missed this earlier post, here's a related "Up" story that *did* make me cry.

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