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A 2009 Pixar Studios movie

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A Brilliant Prose Spread Across Two Story Arcs

  • Nov 14, 2010

Perhaps I should begin this review with some interesting facts about 2009’s Up before even beginning to break down the nuts, bolts and personal opinions of the film.  Up represents director Pete Docter’s first Pixar project since 2001’s Monsters Inc, it was Pixar’s first ever 3D film, it was the first Disney collaboration to earn a PG rating since Pixar’s The Incredibles, it features Pixar's first Japanese/Asian-American character, it was the first Disney/Pixar film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (only the second animated film ever to do that), and until Toy Story 3, it earned notoriety as the second most commercially successful Pixar work (behind Finding Nemo).  Now that’s quite a bit of distinction!

So what’s with all the hype you ask? I can’t be positive but in my opinion it is the least Pixar-like of all of the Pixar films.  How so? Well I typically associate the company with plot concepts so overly clever that they would be charming even if every other aspect of the film bombed (which has, to date, never happened in case you’re wondering).

Up is, well, different.  It starts out by recapping a very-human couple’s lifespan then transforms into a fairly straightforward adventure story.  No monsters here, no robots, living toys, and even the talking animals are explained scientifically!

Up is a comedy adventure about a 78-year-old widower and retired balloon salesman named Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), who finally fulfills a rather unorthodox lifelong dream of great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and sails toward the wilds of South America.  It is this flying house gimmick that will forever stick in the collective minds of the public (and inspired the film’s title) but beyond the superficial there lies a pretty charming tale of the human condition that harkens back to vintage Disney in their 2D prime.

Up opens by telling Carl’s story with extraordinary tenderness and a sense of pacing that hints of a brisk, consistent emotionally charged story. However, the balloon driven air-abode represents the introduction to the second half of the film, which essentially transforms our gray-haired heart string tugger into a bit of a geriatric action hero; a sort of Indiana Jones’ great grandfather if you will.

Fortunately this is Pixar here people, and any doubts of pointless exposition are offset by the unique dynamic established when Carl finds himself an unintentional guardian of a boisterous young scout precisely 70-years his junior.

This young Wilderness Explorer (think boy scouts without the legal snares for rights), Russell (Jordan Nagai), provides some wonderfully humorous moments that act as the perfect catalyst to bring out the comedic best from the ever-grumpy Carl.

The visuals, which as is par for the course with the companies involved, are appropriately awesome with photo-realistic texturing, mind-boggling lighting effects, and characters positively charged with personality.

The score comes from none other than living legend Michael Giacchino (no stranger to Pixar’s scoring demands, having worked with them on The Incredibles & Ratatouille).  It is appropriately epic when need be and charmingly intimate when the film’s proverbial heart calls for it.

In all Up provides a very charming emotionally laced 96-minute joyride that manages to pack a whole lot of charm into what really boils down to a fairly straightforward adventure piece.  Like all of Pixar’s works, it succeeds in providing something appealing to viewers from any conceivable age groups and does so with an effortlessness that hints to the reality that Pixar could very well be the best place to work in the whole world.

A Brilliant Prose Spread Across Two Story Arcs A Brilliant Prose Spread Across Two Story Arcs A Brilliant Prose Spread Across Two Story Arcs A Brilliant Prose Spread Across Two Story Arcs

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November 17, 2010
EXCELLENT review J, this was a really good one here for sure although I would say the first half is the strongest. But still a very good film, great review.
November 18, 2010
Thanks FM_A- totally agree, loved the first half! The second was decent but paled in comparison. Like always, appreciate the read/ feedback buddy.
November 14, 2010
Great review! But I guess I am just a little tired of Pixar's formula and charming moral messages. They're ok as family films but not too impressive at least for me. Ratatouille ruled though! ;)
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 . February 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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 …
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Ranked #10
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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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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