Friday, June 19, 2009


The Pixar team has made a habit out consistency. I've pretty much loved every Pixar film I've seen (and I only missed out on one of them voluntarily) and UP is no exception. From Monster's Inc. director Pete Doctor and regular all around staffer Bob Peterson, Up is possibly their most emotionally charged, labor of love project to date.

Featuring the voice talents of Ed Asner and Christopher Plummer, Up chronicles the latter day adventure of Carl Fredricksen, a crotchety septuagenarian determined to fulfill his lifelong ambitions after the passing of his wife. It sounds sad, indeed, but Up refuses to wallow in it's own self pity in the face of its own tragedy and the lighthearted humor surfaces almost immediately following each tearjerking vignette (of which there are at least two.) When faced with the threat of assisted living, Carl hoists his home into the air on thousands of helium balloons, inadvertently taking with him the well intentioned, over achieving Wilderness Explorer, Russell, who is determined to achieve his "Assisting the Elderly" badge. What follows is a heartwarming adventure of self realization the likes of which only Pixar could communicate with the world.

The look and feel of the film is very throwback to adventure pictures from the 30's, which stylistically makes sense as these are the big screen adventures that fed the imagination of young Carl in the first frames of the film. The setting resonates with echoes of Skull Island from the 1933 version of King Kong and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (not the Jurassic Park sequel...) while the house traveling sequences feel reminiscent of the first scenes of 1939's The Wizard of Oz. The perils that ensue are truly edge of your seat adventures, so much so that the mere popping of a balloon is cringe worthy.

The character work in this film is amazing. Normally when there's a young sidekick in a children's movie they tend to almost demand the most attention through forced comedy. The "funny character" goes a bit over the top, begging for laughs. Russell never crosses this line. His naivety is genuine to his age and while he's a glaring contrast to Carl, their bonding becomes one of the most heartfelt character passages in recent filmic history. Dug the talking dog is handled similarly as well, to equal or better comedic effect. Asner's voice talent for Carl could not be more perfectly matched to the boxy cartoon visage inspired by a cross between Spencer Tracy and Walter Matthau. His counterpart, Charles Muntz, voiced by Christopher Plummer is a kind of menacing cross between Vincent Price and Jack Palance.

While some of the themes may be heavy handed for young children, Up delivers in ways that only Pixar has been capable of for the past 14 years. The 3D aspect, while not as "in your face" as other recent releases (Monsters Vs. Aliens, Beowulf) assists in creating a more immersive experience. Mainly because it doesn't NEED to be 3D, but the fact that it is makes it that much more real. And while Pixar is still on top of its game, get ready for Toy Story 3 next summer.