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A 2009 Pixar Studios movie

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3 ½ Stars: "UP" Stays ALOFT But Doesn't Soar HIGH....

  • Feb 10, 2010
All of us have acquired a fondness for CGI-generated animated features ever since the days of “Toy Story” and Pixar studios together with Disney have crafted several amusing animated movies based on a simple yet effective crowd-pleasing formula. While I am not exactly a huge fan of the Pixar’s works, I have found some of their animated features quite impressive such as “Monsters Inc.”, “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”. So how does Pixar’s latest hit in 2009 “UP” measure up? Thing is much as I appreciate formula family movies, while it does provide good family entertainment “UP” offers nothing worth writing home about.
Carl (voiced by Edward Asner) and Ellie (adult Ellie is voiced by no one) were childhood friends who met, became best friends because of their admiration of “The Spirit of Adventure”, who then later fell in love, got married and grow old together. When Ellie passes on leaving Carl alone, and a land developer threatens to take over their old house, the eccentric old man hatches up a new scheme to fulfill his promise to Ellie to take her to Paradise Falls; house and all, sent floating by balloons. Fate deals Carl a delicate hand as he brings along a young boy named Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), a flightless bird, and a dog (Bob Peterson) who can speak on a new adventure that takes them on the another adventure that brings them in a conflict with Carl‘s childhood hero, the renowned explorer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). 

             Russell and Carl in "Up."

                             A scene from "Up."
“UP” is a formula film and there is no reason for Pixar to actually divert from a formula that works. There’s a mission or a goal, a time for bonding (it is essentially a buddy flick), there’s an eccentric one who has a single-minded purpose and tries to reject change, there’s someone who shows him the importance of facing the problems of the present and a character that provides all the comic humor. We have all seen the plot devices and elements many times before and Pixar does do a great job in swapping the backdrops around. I guess this is why I appreciate animated features such as “The Incredibles”, “Horton Hears a Who” and even “Ratatouille” because of the lack of familiar devices. Well, despite its unoriginality, “UP” does have a heart-warming message at heart and that is the acceptance of a loss and to move on. It also gives a message not to worship fallible human beings as heroes since they usually prove to be as flawed as normal folks.

                 A scene from "Up."
“UP” is a fantasy flick so expect some devices to be underdeveloped and unexplored. Some things are nigh impossible and I suppose this is part of the movie’s charm. The direction by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson is very energetic and I liked the well-placed doses of humor and just how the script develops itself. I found the movie very entertaining despite the weaknesses of the script. The characters in the movie are mainly part of the movie’s success. I really liked the manner the “buddy formula” is played out by Russell and Carl, and “Dug” the dog who speaks is just funny and represents an underdog tale. The voice work is amazing as with Pixar’s other movies and I loved the way Christopher Plummer played Muntz. There is also nothing more funny and adorable (?) than two senior citizens trying to duke it out; you hear each boney creak complete with facial shock expressions. 

                    Kevin, Russell, Dug and Carl in "Up."

                                 Dug, Kevin, Russell and Carl in "Up."
As with Pixar’s other movies, “UP” sports awesome animation work that is so fluid to look at and sports that cube-like shapes in the characters to make them more “goofy”. The colors in the movie are fantastic especially when you look at the rendering on “Kevin” the flightless bird. If you look closely, Russell’s body is shaped like a egg while Carl’s proportions matches a square. Russell is young so his shape may represent something more “well-rounded” while Carl with his cube-like shape represents an older guy being “square”. Muntz is the villain so he retains the features that are pretty “evil” or so in Pixar’s creators’ eyes pretty sinister in a child-friendly way. The dogs in the movie are pretty malleable as they change their mannerisms and as with the natural order of things, dogs are only as nasty as their masters. (Yet, the way they behave was just so humorous)
Despite the fact that I felt that “Up” could have been so much better, I cannot say that I didn’t at least have fun with the movie. The movie follows a very simple formula and makes do of what its got to its best potential possible. It is the type of movie that can entertain the young and have enough humor to keep the parents entertained. Pixar studios follows a very simple routine, but this routine is their own, and after all, don’t “fix something that’s not broke”; so Pixar sticks to a formula that works. “UP” is another such exercise.
Recommended! [3 ½ Stars]

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October 21, 2010
Loved this one, great job WP.
September 15, 2010
Nice review, William. When I first saw the film, I didn't like it for various reasons. Upon further reflection, I've come to appreciate it and enjoy it for what was offered. Nice review.
September 14, 2010
I liked this one more than you did, but only because I found it quite touching in many of its moments. The plot devices are there, sure, but I can't think of a single Pixar Film that hasn't done them to some degree. I can admit that I didn't enjoy as much as other Pixar films, but I don't think the unrealistic nature of it was part o it for me. It is, after all, Pixar. Actually, I'm a bit of a liar in that last bit. There was one unrealistic nature that I didn't like. The fact that the main character (Mr. Fredericksen) has a hero that is clearly many years older than him... who has still lived by the time Mr. Fredericksen has reached old age. Even for Pixar it was hard to buy into that (as well as the fact that he has so many dogs). Those two things took a moment to accept because unlike before, Pixar seemed to provide no real reason as to how this could've happened. Usually some movies leave open interpretation. But in that regard, I felt Pixar had some explaining to do. Not a whole scene. A sentence or two would've sufficed, but it's two moments where I felt the audience shouldn't have been left scratching their heads, you know?

It's like even in Toy Story 3 we can at least interpret what might've happened to Andy's other toys logically without the film telling us.  With UP?  Not so much.  Mr. Fredericksen is clearly a generation younger than his hero.  By all means that older guy should be freakin' dead.  And even interpretation or imagination just couldn't fill that gap for me because Pixar just kind of ignores and hoped the audience would ignore it too.  In some ways it worked.  I still enjoyed UP a great deal (I even bought the whole, balloons making a house fly through the sky... it was kind of easy... I already accepted that a rat could cook, after all). 

So I guess it wasn't as enjoyable as other Pixar films.  But I still felt it was a really good one.  Just... I think I liked movies such as Ratatouille and Wall-E a lot more.
February 13, 2010
I agree with you I've seen this movie with the kids and thought it was good. The kids enjoyed more then I did. Pixar is great what they do plus I noticed Pixar is getting better with their audio and music. The sound effects actually made me wonder how they did it. It's a wonder how they do this so perfect. Great review as always Woo-Woo.
February 12, 2010
Although I enjoyed this film and thought that it was well made, I just didn't feel that it had the over all impact of some of Pixar's other films.
February 12, 2010
Agreed. I thought this movie was waaayyy overrated. Which Pixar movie did you like the best?
February 12, 2010
As someone who likes rodents and loves to cook, plus as a critic, I loved "Ratatouille", so that would take my top slot for Pixar. "The Incredibles" would come in very close as #2, and the original "Toy Story" would take slot #3. Their more recent stuff feels too repetitive and formulaic. I miss the older stories, which were quirkier and more inventive. Now, it feels like they're relying on the animation rather than the writing, which is always a mistake.
February 12, 2010
Hey, seems like we're in full agreement on the best Pixar flicks except that I haven't decided whether Toy Story or Monsters INC. should be the # 3. I think the reason why the older stories were quirkier is because the writers were in a bar drinking when they thought of the idea (at least that's what I heard about them) LOL
February 12, 2010
Actually, I think it was a coffee shop. But yeah, "Monsters, Inc." was great. I was one of the few people who liked it more than "Finding Nemo", which also wasn't bad. I'm looking forward to "Toy Story 3". It looks like they came up with a decent plot, but I'm wondering what will happen as far as the cast and direction go.
February 10, 2010
A fun movie eh? I'll check it up during CNY. Good title: UP!
February 10, 2010
Great review, I love the way you broke this down. I agree with your point about the film being formulaic, and nice mention of The Incredibles. It's probably my favorite Disney/Pixar film, along with Wall-E.
February 10, 2010
Thanks, my friend. The Incredibles is probably we fave Pixar flick as well. I guess I've become jaded to simple kiddie formulas. I liked MONSTER HOUSE and MONSTERS VERSUS ALIENS better than this one.
February 10, 2010
Ooh I liked Monster House too. Monsters Versus Aliens isn't a favorite, but I did enjoy it immensely. BOB was hilarious.
February 11, 2010
Haha sorry! Monsters Inc. was a very good film indeed.
More Up reviews
review by . March 07, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A Heartwarmer!
Up has certainly reached new heights and depths in the cartoon industry. As a film, it is colorful (remember those balloons?) and full of potentials and possibilities (a flying house, eh? not bad at all!).      My first impression when I began watching the animation of the two main characters Russel & Carl is that hey, they both looked rounded and 3 dimensional. I like the rounded feel to the faces of these characters, very likable, very real, very cute! I have the urge …
review by . June 08, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Once again, Pixar has succeeded in creating a film that is intended for the parents as much as for the kids.  UP joins a long list of Pixar movies that adults enjoy just as much as children.    Don't get me wrong.  The kids will definitely love this movie.  It has:   talking dogs colorful balloons the most exotic bird since archeopteryx   But there is so much for the parents in this one.  The opening vignette is a tale of love, life, and …
review by . November 17, 2010
Over the years, PIXAR movies have excelled in sprinkling in moments of deep emotion within all the inventive fun. I remember particularly well the sadness when Jessie the Cowgirl sings about her long lost owner in TOY STORY 2 or the final moment of MONSTERS INC. when Scully sees Boo again (the one moment makes watching the whole movie worthwhile...not that it wasn't already). WALL E certainly had many touching moments.     But Pixar's new UP has them all beat. There are some …
review by . April 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Carl Fredrickson (Edward Asner) is an adventurous, young boy, who meets a girl named Ellie who shares his same passion. Once they are older they fall in love, and get married. They had once planned to travel to a lost land in South America; however, when Ellie dies Carl becomes a grouchy old man with a hard heart. He is being forced to stay in a retirement home for hitting a construction worker, so he comes up with the plan of tying hundreds of balloons to his house and flying away to the lost …
review by . January 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
What ever happens to a dream deferred?
Up is similar to most Disney/Pixar films in that it is enjoyable for people of all ages. It has humor, but it also explores themes such as love and loss, parental neglect, the pursuit (and letting go) of childhood dreams, and even inferiority and the bullying that can take place within a group (as portrayed by Dug, a dog who is seen as one of the lower-ranking members of his pack). While several Disney/Pixar films contain more mature themes (Finding Nemo demonstrates the …
review by . October 22, 2009
It's been a long time coming for us Brits, but Up is finally here, and I'm glad to say it's been worth the wait.      With every new film they release, Pixar somehow manage to add more and more depth, not just to their visuals, but to their stories too. Now less concerned with zany characters, elaborate action set-pieces, saccharine sweet moments and over-cooked visual bravura, Up is perhaps the studio's most human, most poignant, character driven movie to date. Such is the brilliance …
Quick Tip by . November 06, 2010
Awesome beginning and loses its gas after the halfway point. The film had a very strong emotional first half but then it falls to the usual contrived devices that we've all seen before. It had some nice elements to it (seniors fighting) but the plot was riddled with holes too. 3.5 Out of 5 Stars      See the full review here.
review by . May 12, 2009
Scully and I enjoying a glass of wine
Pixar has become the most dependable studio out there for producing reliable films that don't simply continue to raise the bar in animation but set a level of excellence in storytelling that puts most live-action movies to shame. 'Up' represents another change in style, as significant as Wall-E's shift to photorealism, intricate camera effects and darker themes. It effectively blends moments of tragedy with almost slapstick humor, while showing that their understanding of story structure and pacing …
review by . January 09, 2010
      I'm not a die hard fan of animated movies and I usually like them vs. loving them. But I'd heard great things and had lots of folks recommend it as an awesome movie so I went ahead and rented it.       My overall thoughts:       I like the idea of an animated film about an adult. The story of the man who went on an adventure in his lawn chair has always intrigued me and I loved his simple philosophical reason for his trip, "You …
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Extremely heart-warming and so creative, Up reminds you to follow your dreams at any age. Dug is one of my favorite characters.
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William ()
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About this movie


is a comedy adventure about Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), a retired 78-year-old balloon salesman who meets and later marries a girl named Ellie. Growing up in a small Midwestern town, Ellie has always dreamed of visiting South America. Unfortunately, she died before she got a chance. In hopes of fulfilling his promise to Ellie, Carl uses 10,000 balloons to make his house fly and sets off for South America. He unknowingly takes a chubby eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell along for the ride and the duo match up for one thrilling adventure around the earth.

 The film is directed by Pete Docter (the director of Monsters Inc.) and features voices of Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer and Jorgan Nagai. Up premiered by opening the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, which was the first animated film to do so. The film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and grossed over $683 million worldwide, making it Pixar's second most commercially successful film, after Finding Nemo.


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Genre: Animation
Release Date: May 29, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Bob Peterson
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
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