Up (2009)

(In theaters, June 2009): Will Pixar ever stop surprising audiences? It’s not enough for them to keep producing the best animated films on the face of the planet: They have to take insane chances with what they try to do. Up may be for kids, but it talks to adults by starring an old cranky man who seizes upon his last chance for adventure; it may be a comedy, but it starts with the single saddest ten minutes of film in recent memory. I’ll argue that the film never completely recovers from the strength of this first segment (even the comedy rings hollow when confronting death and loneliness), but I have to acknowledge the insane artistic ambition of the entire thing. The risk-taking never stops: The cast of characters for the entire film is tiny, half of them aren’t human, and the blatant symbolism of a character walking around with an entire house’s worth of baggage never feels forced. (On the other hand, the mean-spirited climax strikes a false note.) Ultimately, I may not love Up (and Wall-E) quite as much as I love Ratatouille, but it’s impossible to take a look at Pixar’s last few films and feel that they’re not trying to do things that other filmmakers won’t even contemplate.

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