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.
What did you think of this review?
Up 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.