As a 34- (going on 35-) year-old man, I am not supposed to be giddy with anticipation for nearly anything in this life, especially for something as silly as a movie. Social mores state that it simply isn't done -- I'm to be emotionally collected at 34 (going on 35). Controlled. Colorless, even. My joys are to be limited to grown-up things, and kept to myself.
So I ask your indulgence today; I am bursting with a 4- (going on 5-) year-old boy's excitement over a movie I'll be seeing tonight, Disney/Pixar's 10th feature, "Up."
I don't hesitate to confess that I'm an unabashed Pixar fanatic -- to my mind (and not a few others), this studio's batting average is unparalleled, from the groundbreaking "Toy Story" to the stratosphere-shattering "Wall-E," and all (yep, all) the ones between. To flip a well-worn phrase, Pixar could make a movie about a phone book, and I'd pay to see it.
I've been waiting for "Up" since I saw the first teaser trailer for it last year, and I've been counting the days since then. (Well, not all of them, but you get what I'm saying.) Just watching a few animated balloons float from bottom-left to upper-right on the movie screen gave me goosebumps.
But the naysayers came out on this film, as they've done on the past few; chief among the complaints was that the lead character, a curmudgeonly 78- (going on 79?-) year-old man was someone that children -- the obvious target audience for a cartoon -- would not be able to identify with, pronounced the Wall Street experts and the marketing gurus and the toymakers. Others proclaimed that, before one minute of finished film saw the light of day, this would finally be the movie that would end Pixar's (apparently-envied) string of successes. What goes up (pun slightly intended), right?
Then it was selected to open the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. (For the record, it was the first animated film to be selected as the Opening Night presentation, where it also was shown in 3-D, which was another first.) Some likely thought that this was merely a bow to Hollywood power players Disney and Pixar, or a sop to the blockbuster movie that was going to be playing in theaters around the world, but couldn't possibly be any more than that.
The international critical response? Overwhelmingly positive. Some were even rapturous. Those reviews have begun to flow through American media outlets; as of this writing, 78 positive reviews (out of 80 total) have been logged and linked at RottenTomatoes.com, a movie Web site that specializes in aggregating critics' commentaries.
But even if I hadn't heard about all of this good advance word, I'd still be up to see "Up," and it's because this movie's from Pixar. No major studio, production company or other film entity has engendered as much goodwill with me. Minimizing their body of animated films by calling them "cartoons" is unfair -- great films are great films, period, and I'd put their best up against the best live-action movies any day.
I trust this crew. Sure, they make films that are beautiful to look at, and how they push the technological boundaries movie after movie is admirable, but for me, Pixar means superior stories told by master storytellers. That's something to embrace and cherish in these days of unease; it hearkens memories of simpler, warmer times, all the while creating an altogether new pathway on which to linger and dream, at least for a while.
Add to that my building anticipation of experiencing what's already being hailed as one of the year's very best films (animated or not), and hopefully, you can understand why I'm proud to be giddy today -- even though I'm 34 (going on 35).