I was going to start out this review by stating there are very few movie studios that have the stellar track record that Pixar has but honestly that would be an incorrect statement because there is no movie studio in business today that has the body of work that Pixar has. To me personally Pixar has elevated their game each of the last two years, releasing “Ratatouille” and “Wall-E” both of which transcended the animated medium Pixar works within and became stunning pieces of artistic cinema. Each year I keep saying to myself that Pixar can’t outdo themselves yet again and they continuously prove me wrong.
So along comes “Up” and I’m going to be honest, while my anticipation for each new Pixar film is always at a fever pitch I was not expecting much out of “Up”. A large portion of my reasoning behind this was the fact that, at least in my eyes, Pixar releases some very dry trailers. So while “Up” looked like it would be fun, I mean an old guy floating his house away like a blimp using balloons certainly has potential, I didn’t see much depth to it. And that is just where Pixar wanted me.
My favorite Pixar film to date is “Finding Nemo”, somewhat because I love fish but mostly because the film is beautiful on an emotional level. “Up” is the first film since “Finding Nemo” that really touched me on a deep emotional level. Like “Finding Nemo”, “Up” is very multi-faceted. It is about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, following your dreams, loyalty, betrayal and friendship. Somehow Pixar manages to mold all these themes into a coherent and thoroughly entertaining story.
The film starts off by introducing us to a young Carl Fredricksen, who envisions himself as somewhat of an explorer. Upon walking home from seeing a film about his hero, explorer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer), Carl stumbles across another junior explorer, a young girl named Ellie. Ellie and Carl make quick friends with Ellie leading the charge on all their adventures. The first few minutes of the film are spent exploring the lives of Carl and Ellie. Their happiness at getting married, their pain at not being able to have a child, their love of each other and ultimately Ellie’s death. The sequence is a touching montage that pulls at your heartstrings and if you aren’t a little misty eyed while watching it you may very well have no heart.
When Ellie passes on she gives Carl (voiced by the great Ed Asner) her adventuring scrapbook. Without Ellie, Carl is lost and he mostly just stays to himself in his little house. After a series of unfortunate events Carl’s is forced to sell his house and move into a retirement community but instead of going quietly into the night he decides to rig his house with balloons and set off on the grand adventure that he and Ellie never got to go on. Accidentally joining Carl on his journey is a little boy scout named Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) and it is Russell who will teach Carl a lesson or two about friendship and letting go.
If any criticism could be levied against both “Wall-E” and “Ratatouille” is that there were some minor pacing issues. “Up” has none of these issues, once the house takes off the film literally goes from being grounded in reality to being a fantastic ride that never lets up until the final scene in the film. It involves everything from the aforementioned flying house, to giant-exotic chocolate-eating birds, to talking dogs who are distracted by squirrels, to Red Baronish dogfights, all the way to daring high altitude rescues. Unsurprisingly it all looks amazing and Pixar has once again raised the bar for computer animation. Everything moves in a natural way and the film is filled with bright colors that really pop on the big screen. It is one of the rare visual treats that also has a fantastic story.
Simply put “Up” is an amazing film. I’m not sure there is any studio outside of Pixar that can take so many themes and mold them into a film that touches adults and children alike where it counts, the heart. Pixar doesn’t make animated films, they make films that just happen to be animated. I wish that the Academy would open their eyes and finally realize that.
5 out of 5
Since you are all going to ask anyway, I would rank “Up” as my second favorite Pixar film behind only “Finding Nemo”. For me it surpasses Pixar’s previous two entrants in every way, quite a feet being as I considered “Ratatouille” and “Wall-E” my favorite films from 2007 and 2008 respectively.