Movie Name: Up
Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
Release Date(s): May 29, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) had true love. He and his childhood love Ellie dreamed of following the adventures of Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer) and explore the South American hidden world of Paradise Falls. Unfortunately, life got in the way and years of planning never amounted to anything. When Carl loses Ellie, he finds their home being threatened by construction and fears of having to move to a home. Carl has one option…take Ellie and his home to Paradise Falls. Using balloons, Carl is off…unfortunately a Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai) has inadvertently tagged along. When Russell and Carl reach Paradise Falls, they find danger and intrigue…and an old man still trying to prove himself to the world.
Directed by Peter Docter, Up was Pixar and Disney’s 3D follow-up to the award winning WALL-E in 2008. Like WALL-E, Up was released to great acclaim and became the second animated feature nominated for Best Picture (the first was Beauty and the Beast) in the newly opened larger pool of Best Pictures. Along with Best Picture, Up was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Sound Editing. Up won academy awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.
I like Up. It is a good, solid film that dares to be a bit edgier than many other Pixar and Disney films. Despite enjoying Up, I do find a few problems with it that kept it from being a great film…one of which is that it shouldn’t have been a feature film at all.
Up feels like and would have made a fantastic short. The opening twenty minutes are some of the most powerful animated film moments yet…unfortunately, the sweet story becomes a Disney/Pixar film after the twenty minutes. The action and adventure is good and it has merit, but I liked the softness of the opening. I imagined an Up with no voice actors, no Russell, and ending with Carl finding his wife’s note to have adventures leading him to float away in his house like magic. It would feel a lot like the classic 1956 French film The Red Balloon which I imagined served as an inspiration for Up. The story is quite strong, but I wish it had gone this path.
Up does have some great characters. Asner is the perfect voice choice for the curmudgeon Carl whose looks are based on Spencer Tracy. He’s joined by the great Christopher Plummer as his idol/nemesis Muntz (who like many Disney villains meets his demise with a fall). Jordan Nagai feels extremely natural as Russell and it was good to see a Japanese American character in a film without it being mentioned or part of the plot. Bob Peterson does a great job as Dug the dog and also provides the voice for Alpha. Pixar regular John Ratzenberger makes a vocal appearance as one of the construction workers near the beginning of the film.
Visually, Up also excels. It used to impress just to simply have computer animation, but Pixar was one of the first to realize that the same cinematography used in films could be applied to movies. The film feels big and cinematic in a way that some of the big epics felt. I kind of wish that the world of Paradise Falls was a bit more distinctive, but the film utilizes the location.
Up is a good film that could have been a near perfect short. Despite this personal objection to Up, I can’t fault the film which shows true emotion without being as manipulative as Toy Story 3 which tries a bit too hard to bring tears. Not only is Up a great family film, but a great adventure, drama, fantasy, and even romance…get Up and see it! Pixar followed Up with Toy Story 3 in 2010.
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