Unreal Movie Review: Up


Another year, another smashing critical and commercial success from Pixar, the company with the uncanny ability to turn any story no matter how bizarre sounding, into an engaging animated film for all ages. Rather than taking place in a monster factory or featuring a cast of voiceless robots, Up has perhaps the strangest premise to date. An old man ties a flock of helium balloons to his house and flies to South America with the aid of chubby boy scout, a talking dog and an extinct bird.

The question really isn’t if the movie is good, as that question is automatically rendered pointless the moment the Pixar nameplate appears on the screen. Rather, it’s how the movie stacks up in the total Pixar cannon, and honestly, Up is one of its very best.

Up is without a doubt the most emotionally engaging Pixar film to date. In case you’re wondering, the PG rating (unusual for the company) is because of the “adult themes” of death. The opening scene of Up is the life and times of Carl Fredrickson and his wife Ellie, who both dream of adventure in the lost reaches of South America. But as time passes, they never get around to seeing the world, and right when Carl finally saves up the funds for their grand trip late in life, Ellie passes. It’s a truly sad scene that is more tearjerking than a whole host of Oscar winning dramas.

But Carl finally decides to take the dream journey in memory of his wife, and that’s where the real adventure begins. Though his plan is to make the trip to South America’s Paradise Falls alone, he slowly takes on compatriots. First is Russell, the rotund boy scout lacking only his “Assisting the Elderly” merit badge, then Kevin, an exotic bird with a penchant for chocolate and finally Doug, the robotic collar-assisted talking dog who may be one of the most likable cartoon characters in history.


Pixar’s best team yet?

With the interactions of the group, Pixar blends their signature style of clever writing with physical comedy, and even though the cast is small, has one of the best dynamics seen in any of their films. But besides being about adventure and laughs, the group dynamic serves as means to take Carl out of his isolated bubble he’s lived in since his wife died, and he learns that new friends can be as good as old ones. Oh sorry, spoiler alert there, but you’ve probably guessed how most Pixar movies end at this point, and they’re not exactly full of twists.

So yes, Up is as close as you can get to a perfect Pixar movie. My only complaint would be that I wish it was a little longer. Lesser Pixar projects like Cars got to run for over two hours, but Up only gets a scant hour and a half. I feel a few more scenes rampaging around in the jungle wouldn’t have felt forced, and I hope there isn’t a whole host of stuff that ended up on the editing floor as it easily could have fit.

One last note, though it doesn’t pertain to just this film specifically. This was the first Pixar movie in 3-D, as that’s the new industry standard for animated movies. However, I firmly believe that it’s not worth the $4 ticket bump, at least not yet. Yes, the 3-D effect is rather cool, but you eventually really stop noticing it (there’s aren’t any designated”pop right in your face” moments) and there are tradeoffs because of it. The screen is a shade or two darker than usual (you are essentially wearing sunglasses after all) and the crisply rendered graphics are often a bit blurry, as your eyes don’t know how to focus on the protruding 3-D images. And every so often, you become aware of the glasses you’re wearing and it takes you out of the movie.

I’m convinced that I would have enjoyed Up slightly more had I not seen it in 3-D, and at this point it’s definitely not worth paying EXTRA for. I’m desperately hoping that James Cameron’s Avatar will change all that, and 3-D tech will evolve to a point where it’s worth it, but as of right now, we are just not there.

But that’s an argument for another day. The fact remains that Up isn’t just the best kids movie of the year, it’s neck and neck with Star Trek for the most enjoyable movie-going experience period. And really, should we have expected anything less?

5 out of 5 stars


Pixar promoting childhood obesity.

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