‘Down’ drowns childhood hopes in sea of fear

By Maaaaaaat Huuuuuuston

Last True American Troubadour

If critics thought Pixar crowned its brand with the poignant fantasy of 2008’s “Wall-E” and its high-flying follower, “Up,” the studio’s latest release constitutes a raw about-face.

“Down,” the stunningly desolate sequel to Pixar’s Best Animation winner, takes the serious-silly dynamic of “Up” in a dark new direction. Released nationwide on March 26, the film subverts viewers’ most fundamental expectations of family-friendliness.

The plot picks up on the edge of a South American cliff, where the elderly Carl Fredrickson and his obnoxious, boy-scout attendee Russell so joyously landed in their flying house at the end of “Up.” However, early signs show that all is not well at Paradise Falls — the house is quiet.

A string of shocking revelations unfolds. A rabid hunger has overtaken the two adventurers, who discovered, soon after landing, that their paradise was devoid of anything to eat.

The house is dreary and disheveled, the old man is getting delirious, and Dug — the duo’s chattering golden retriever — is history.

A spare, unnerving dialogue between Fredrickson and his now-pubescent companion reveals that the cliff holding up the house is dissolving fast. Shaken by the old man’s despondency and refusal to leave the house, Russell abandons him. At the end of a restless nightmare-sleep, the lone elder finds himself in a new hell: the house has taken a plunge into the sea, and Fredrickson is sinking.

What follows are two and a half stressful hours of exhausting, astounding personal torment.

“Up” embraced a certain maturity with a touching story of lost love, but “Down” is an animated psychodrama the likes of which has never been witnessed. The once-hopeful house becomes a mournfully air-locked underwater prison. Fredrickson, starving and adrift, has no choice but to confront a series of schizoid demons.

After a half-hour of pure, dissociating silence at the bed of the Atlantic, the deathly conclusion is difficult to watch. By this point on Friday night, the majority of moviegoers at one New Jersey theater, AMC Hamilton, had already left.

“Whoever decided that it was okay to do this to a children’s franchise has some serious personal issues,” said one homeward-bound audience member.

As the credits rolled, only one college student remained in the theater.

“That was … genius!” Jeff Roman, junior journalism major and Singal Features Editor, exclaimed, before climbing atop his seat and dancing in wild celebration.

Matt Huston is fucking in heaven.