***/**** Image A+ Sound A+ Extras N/A
screenplay by Bob Peterson
directed by Pete Docter
by Walter Chaw There's still something breathless about Up, but I wonder if the Pixar formula isn't starting to show its seams now in its second decade of producing masterpieces--if there's a lack of freshness here in its familiarly exhilarated, cozily excited spaces. None of that fatigue is in evidence in the film's miraculous, wordless prologue, however: destined to compete with the opening-credits sequence of Watchmen as the single best stretch in any film this year, it establishes character, motivation, story of place, and sense of time without leaving a dry eye in the house. Shame the picture also peaks in these first ten minutes. It reminds of the wordless bit describing Jessie's abandonment in Toy Story 2, or the entire first half of WALL·E, and it suggests that Pixar is unparalleled in exploiting the possibilities for visual storytelling in its cavernous digital medium. The comparison of WALL·E to Chaplin is on point: When Pixar trusts the expressiveness of its mainframe and the beautiful, liquid clarity of its animation techniques, I don't know that there's ever been a better "silent" filmmaking collective. In their roster, it's arguable that they've only really faltered twice: once with the tedious Seven Samurai redux A Bug's Life, and again with the noxious redneck-baiting Cars. And while Up is nowhere near that bottom, it finds itself somewhere in the middle thanks to the peculiar ceiling to its invention (an entire Lost World and all you got is a giant bird and a talking dog?) and sentimentality that edges from sweet to mawkish. There are one too many cutaways to a dead wife's portrait and one too many winsome sighs as a plan made in childhood looms tantalizingly near.