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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.67%
Average: 3.03%
Pretty Bad: 1.52%
Total Crap: 1.52%

5 reviews, 36 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"Pixar finally makes one from the heart"
5 stars

Magnified with the type of divine emotional majesty few animation spectacles could ever hope to reach, Disney/Pixar’s “Up” is a triumphant masterstroke for the studio and their Teflon reputation. Declining the red-carpet invitation to manufacture mawkish, feebly scripted pathos, “Up” instead aims for and achieves a splendid merger of heartache and soaring spirituality. For their 10th motion picture, the Pixar squad has hit pay dirt yet again, only with “Up,” the production team manages to weave together whimsy and poignancy in a visually dazzling, high-flying marvel of an adventure. Conceptually, it’s not a trailblazer, but the execution is perhaps Pixar’s most confident and irresistibly moving since their 1995 masterpiece, “Toy Story.”

Reeling from the death of his beloved wife Ellie, Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner) is caught in a mournful stasis, maintaining his curmudgeonly senior citizen lifestyle and his comfortable home while the outside world demands removal. Sensing his chance to pursue the life of adventure his wife always dreamed of, Carl uses the force of balloons to lift his house out of the ground and into the sky, traveling to South America with hopes to land near the jungle stomping grounds of his boyhood hero, adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Accidently onboard the house during takeoff is young Russell (Jordan Nagal), a pudgy, devout Wilderness Explorer member hoping Carl could help with the achievement of his “Assist the Elderly” badge. Now stuck together in the sky, the odd couple must find common ground when they settle at their destination, finding a dog named Dug who can communicate through a special collar, an exotic female bird Russell names “Kevin,” and Muntz, who has sequestered himself inside a massive Zeppelin staffed by canines, hungry to prove his worth to a world that’s shunned his accomplishments.

Directed by Pete Docter (“Monster’s Inc.”) and Bob Peterson (who voices Dug and a villainous Doberman Pinscher named Alpha), “Up” is a motion picture that’s seemingly close to a cold death by asphyxiation just by the sheer measure of whimsy present in the screenplay and the juicy, vibrant animation. It’s a high-wire act for the filmmakers to create something meaningful out of particularly fussy raw materials such as epic balloon flight, talking dogs, and chatty chubby children. Yet they manage the impossible. Docter and Peterson achieve a purity of intention that’s jaw-dropping, ditching the weight of processed wit many Pixar productions feel obligated to engage to charge “Up” forward as an inspiring quest, underscored by crippling poignancy, especially in the brittle tale of Carl and his devotion to his deceased wife Ellie.

A brief backstory meant to form motivation for Carl’s unorthodox method of big city escape, the tale of Carl and Ellie is an authentically devastating recollection of love gained and cruelly lost to time, communicated brilliantly and wordlessly by the filmmakers, who use the gift of elegant CG animation and well-lubed Pixar character expression to lend the audience a sobering entry point to Carl’s stubborn psychology. It’s a simple sequence of exposition, but there’s something emotionally pure that Docter and Peterson unearth that’s unsettlingly fragile and stunning, displaying lifelong attachment in only a few sensational cinematic steps. It’s a tender sentiment that ripples throughout the entire picture, lasting as a long as it does through aching sincerity, not calculation. There are a few stirring beats that arrive during Ellie’s remembrance montage in “Up” that I’m sure surprised even the filmmakers.

I’d hate to make “Up” sound like dour calamity. The film is anything but depressing. Once in adventure mode flying high in the sky, the picture settles in with Carl and Russell, having tremendous fun with their differences in age and appetites for curiosity. Handsomely voiced by Asner and Nagal, the actors instill the characters with gracious levels of comedy and dramatic dimension, making it easier to buy the numerous jumps between slapstick and conflict that increase as the film moves along. While I found “Up” to be incredibly touching, there are oodles of comedy to be had throughout the picture (scored with tremendous orchestral zest by Michael Giacchino), embodied by Dug’s lovable pea-brained canine enthusiasm and Russell’s lovable pea-brained adolescent determination, both captured in puffy, charmingly exaggerated character designs.

In a microscopic way, “Up” does succumb to the rigid Pixar screenwriting template blues toward the opening of the third act, hatching a break-up-to-make-up scenario for Carl and Russell that feels alien to the momentum Docter and Peterson have tenaciously built. It’s a small objection within a film of enormous creative beauty and gorgeous cartoon buoyancy. “Up” underlines not only Pixar’s artistic dominance, but demonstrates a rarely observed portion of emotional sincerity that rushes through the system of this picture with a near angelic grace.

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originally posted: 05/29/09 14:13:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2009 Festival de Cannes series, click here.

User Comments

8/01/19 Suzanne So very moving and the score is wonderful. 5 stars
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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