Sun 31 May
I saw Disney Pixar’s “Up” last night at New York’s famously outsized Ziegfeld Theater, where the audience was shockingly sparse. Only half of the seats in the house were filled, if that, which I found to be amazing and, for a Saturday evening show at one of the city’s premier cinema houses, somewhat appalling too. To be sure, Pixar films do well, and “Up” is well on its way to a healthy profit. But adjusted for ticket price inflation, the movie’s opening weekend gross makes it only the fifth-best performing of all of Pixar’s theatrical releases.
On the whole, Pixar’s ability to drive audiences to the theaters seems less effective than it should be, and it’s disappointing that this movie’s receipts make for good but not great numbers. What more do audiences want? “Up” is a phenomenally touching, thoroughly amusing and wonderful ninety minutes of movie magic. (As an aside, take a look at these gorgeous production paintings from one of the movie’s artists, Lou Romano, for a taste of its terrific visual inventiveness. They’re brimming with heart.)
It’s almost no surprise that “Up” follows neatly in the footsteps of its predecessors. Each and every one of Pixar’s releases balance art, entertainment and commercial imperatives with a preternatural adroitness and stunning consistency that would seem truly rare. I can’t think of a movie studio — or a creative team in any medium, for that matter — that can match the sterling track record for quality that Pixar has recorded over the past fifteen years. For my money, every one of these films has been a home run.
Call me an idealist, but In a just world, that kind of sustained creative success should be tantamount to a force of nature, something unstoppable. It simply doesn’t seem right that a movie as banal as, say, “Wolverine” should earn almost US$20 million more than “Up” in its opening weekend. I know that so many complex factors go into the box office performance of any given film, but it would just be nice to see the good guys win for a change. Not just win, but it would be nice to see them wipe the floor with the competition — the much paler competition. It would make me feel a lot better about the way art works. And make no mistake: this stuff is art.