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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.92%
Average: 3.08%
Pretty Bad: 1.54%
Total Crap: 1.54%

5 reviews, 35 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Pixar Openings Should Be National Holidays"
4 stars

Ask anyone to name the best Pixar films and you will never get the same list. For every five people you survey you might get two of them to agree on their favorite. When I join into this discussion there are really only two indisputable facts – WALL-E is their best film and Cars is their only true misfire. Other than that, have at it and debate the rest. That’s the beauty of the Pixar library. They are interchangable not because they are all the same, but that their levels of greatness are so thinly divided there’s almost no wrong answer. Once one of their films is released it becomes the gold standard that all other animated films that year must measure up to. And its not because they have the better technology or can attract the big name talent (that has frankly scuttled more animated releases than improved them.) It’s because they tell stories. Great stories, exciting ones, funny ones that are never age-defined and never take anyone for granted. They appeal to your sense of adventure but also your intelligence and aren’t afraid to tackle themes that come in handy on our own life’s journey. Up is certainly no exception. While maybe not one of their more epic efforts, it nevertheless should reach all of you on a deeper level when you least expect it. Then again, it’s Pixar, so you probably should.

Back when he was a kid, Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), was obsessed with adventure stories, particular those of explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). The old theatrical newsreels told Muntz’s tales about the lost jungles of South America and the eventual public disgrace he suffered when his last great finding, the skeletal remains of a once-thought extinct bird, was exposed as a fraud. Carl wouldn’t believe it and kept on with the fanciful imagining of his own adventures. Vocal and enthusiastic in his own world, Carl soon clams up when he meets a fellow wannabe globetrotter in Ellie whom he meets in a dilapitated house. Ellie gets Carl to come out of his shell for good, and in one of the most wonderful montages you may ever see, we witness their life together – building a home, sharing smiles and long days, but putting their spirit of adventure long behind them. Until one day, it’s too late.

Now living alone in the one house of an industrial block that won’t sell, Carl just wants to be left to himself. With the corporations breathing down his neck and construction crews taking the neighborhood piece by piece, an act of outrage puts Carl on a one-way trip to a nursing home. But he’s not going to be dragged away from the home he shared with his beloved. As a lifelong balloon salesman, Carl ties enough product to the fireplace to rip the house from its foundation and sends it soaring in search of the mythical land he always promised to find with Ellie. Carl is anything but alone though. The young boy scout, Russell (Jordan Nagai) desperate to earn his final badge was on the porch during liftoff. Carl imagines ways of dumping the kid off somewhere but a storm (nearly) touches them down in the middle of Venezuela. And they are anything but alone.

By now you’ve already seen the footage and the pictures of Carl’s house suspended by seemingly thousands of balloons and know little more of what transpires from there. Certainly the surprises in the plotting are on the light side and I wouldn’t dream of being the one who bursts them, so I’ll tread equally as lightly. One of their companions turns out to be a talking dog named Dug (writer and co-director Bob Peterson); talking thanks to an electronic collar that turns his barks into human speech. Dug is a classic children’s animated character, cute and aloof in every appearance and lovable to no end. It’s nice to see that doggies don’t lose their natural instincts to detect squirrels even in a land where they’ve likely never been spotted. This is the subtle magnificince of Pixar’s writers. Even the animals get injected with the kind of personality you don’t get in most big-budget blockbusters. Despite the dogs (yes, Dug is not alone either) retrieving their laughs from some of the oldest dog cliches in the book, it’s not hard to fathom that those responsible are not using them for cheap laughs but because they love ‘em. Few movies understand dog behavior as well as Up does.

There are dangers to be found on the island too. Not scary enough to frighten children, but maybe just enough to have them asking the kind of questions you wouldn’t expect to answer after the latest Shrek or Hannah Montana film. Dug and Russell are mere foils compared to the film’s adult characters. The obligatory lack of a father figure in Russell’s life adds some depth to his motivations, but he is really just another sad reminder of what Carl has lost. The number of details in Carl’s life through that heartbreaking montage (which one cannot praise enough) provide the necessary baggage that formulates more than just his role from antagonist to protagonist. Here’s a man with only two great loves in a life almost spent. The sense of adventure is reignited, but Carl has reached an age where he’d rather say live-and-let-live then see another extinguished in the name of fantastical reach for glory – and that includes his own. Carl’s journey must consist of letting go of both of those great loves and allow the symbols of his past carry the torch to the next great adventure. Even if its not to be his. Counter that with another in their twilight hoping to leave their legacy untarnished and you have a truer statement on the fears of aging that has rarely been so eloquently stated as it is in Up.

Up has its share of melancholy. An inscription in a book of memories and (again) the culmination of that opening foray into Carl’s time with Ellie are enough to disprove your humanity if you’re not moved in some way. The empty spot on Russell’s merit keeper we know is a sticking point that must eventually be filled – and we should all know what’s going to fill it – but the way the film approaches it in the end still catches us off guard. That and the beautiful final shot (before the credits’ book of new memories) are enough to cause a reflex in our hands to tickle that instantaneous sniffle. Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson are far from just delivering maudlin theatrics though. There are laughs-a-plenty and in the grand Pixar tradition, an action finale as exciting as anything delivered by James Cameron, Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg. Clocking in as the shortest of all the Pixar features, there is still no shortage of material in a time where many two-and-a-half-plus hour ruminations on life and death are lacking. (I’m looking right at you, Ben Button.) And if you still want more you can just get in line and see Up again.

As the 10th Pixar production the lists will be shuffled around again as to where Up ranks in the debate. Will its simple story hinder it against WALL-E? Has the gloriously bright color scheme surpassed the beauty of Finding Nemo’s underwater landscape? Can a literal zeppelin dogfight compare to the climactic chases of Monsters, Inc. and the Toy Story films? Honestly, who cares? I have to because of the nature of my job but why should you worry about that. Why speculate on the physics of helium strength, the ability to set up a flying house in one night (let alone steer it), or Carl’s ability to drag it around with a weak back? You want to laugh, you want to cry and be exhilarated and all that movies are supposed to offer and then some – then you go to a Pixar movie. Saying Up ranks somewhere right in the middle is like dissing the bottom half of the top 10 titles that any genre has to offer. And if that is where Up appears on the list of 2009’s best films, then so be it.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/27/09 01:36:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2009 Festival de Cannes series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell very good Pixar movie see it 4 stars
8/01/13 Suzie Williams This was one of my favorite Pixar movies. Original, cute, emotional. LOVED IT! 5 stars
6/23/13 Charles Tatum Sweet flick, nice sentiment gives way to funny action. 4 stars
9/11/12 marta gilson SPECTACULAR - Totally unespected 5 stars
1/21/12 rXrumere No Comment 5 stars
10/19/11 Magic While not as innovative as previous efforts, still emotionally engaging and melancholic. 5 stars
3/28/11 RLan One word: WONDERFUL! 5 stars
3/29/10 R.W. Welch Imaginative work, with touches of pathos,tho bit overdone at times. 4 stars
3/19/10 Wookah! One of the best animated movies I have ever seen. 5 stars
3/08/10 Samantha Pruitt i don't think it was the best but it was goof, kind of sad at the beginning 4 stars
2/17/10 The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness Loved this one, but I disagree about "Cars" - loved that one, too! 5 stars
12/22/09 Dr.Lao One of those rare films that blends abusrdity with feeling and actually makes it work 5 stars
12/13/09 Flounder Simply wonderful! 5 stars
12/13/09 mwilde Excellent! 5 stars
12/08/09 Sevarian strikingly origiginal, esp. for animation in the U.S. 5 stars
11/28/09 Rat+Walle>Up I'm just as likely to be bored by a pixar film as love it, this one bored me 2 stars
11/16/09 david The openng montage had my 9- and 13-yo crying. Then they laughed. Then they cried again. 5 stars
10/17/09 MP Bartley Sweet, sad, tender, hilarious, profound - and Doug is the character of the year. 5 stars
10/12/09 Philip Buckley-Mellor Moving beyond belief, I sobbed throughout 5 stars
7/26/09 Bryan Uplifting, beautifully realized, funny, poignant. 5 stars
7/16/09 Stephanie Grant Very cute.....but a little sad 5 stars
7/13/09 The Game Overrated. 1 stars
6/19/09 Baloney Bird of a different feather for Pixar. This studio keeps maturing. Great short to boot! 5 stars
6/17/09 Simon The early growing-old montage is indeed amazing, but kiddie-movie limitations still there 4 stars
6/14/09 malcolm strong beginning and ending, but slow in the middle 3 stars
6/09/09 Justin As good as WALL E in my opinion. 5 stars
6/09/09 not a critic Disappointing, very slow moving at first, scary - not for young children 3 stars
6/08/09 Charles Rogers Up has everything that I ever wanted from a movie! 5 stars
6/05/09 Tim Goes from poignant to uplifting in a way that few movies can match. Brilliant! 5 stars
6/02/09 Toni I cried, laughed and cried... but Pixar does it again 5 stars
5/31/09 Dave Gorgeous, sweet, funny, sad - is there nothing that Pixar cannot do? 5 stars
5/31/09 Ginii Who knew that a "kid's movie" could have such depth of feeling? Amazing. 5 stars
5/30/09 Nessus Surprisngly sad. There were a lot of "Fry's Dog" moments for a summer kids film 5 stars
5/30/09 Flounder This afternoon I saw the film, and it was INCREDIBLE. Perhaps Pixar's finest work yet. 5 stars
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  29-May-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 10-Nov-2009


  DVD: 10-Nov-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Pete Docter
  Bob Peterson

Written by
  Bob Peterson

  Ed Asner
  Christopher Plummer
  John Ratzenberger
  Jordan Nagai

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