Up Review


Up is without a doubt one of Pixar’s best films. The film’s first scene is one of the most sublime cinematic moments I’ve ever experienced. And while the rest of the film doesn’t quite measure up to that level of greatness, it’s still a rousing adventure, complete with all the humor and emotion we’ve come to expect from Pixar.

Carl Fredricksen (voice of Ed Asner) is the most crotchety of old men, but he hasn’t always been that way. We meet him as a young boy, when he first meets Ellie, a wild young girl who shares his love of adventure. The next ten minutes take us through Carl and Ellie’s marriage. They are happy as can be. They work at a zoo. They plan their dream trip to Paradise Falls in Venezuela. But they are unable to have children. It doesn’t drastically change their marriage; in fact they fall even more in love. But when Elli passes away, Carl is all alone, and as a result, very crotchety.

So Carl lives by himself. Any visitor is just a bother, including a young boy scout, Russell (voice of Jordan Nagai), trying to earn his ‘assisting the elderly’ badge. After accidently assaulting a construction worker outside his beloved home, Carl is ordered to move into an assisted-living center. But he’s not going quietly. He decides to finally make the trip to Paradise Falls, and he’s taking his house with him. He attaches thousands of helium balloons to the roof and floats away. Little does he know, Russell the Boy Scout was on his porch when he took off, so he won’t be making his dream trip alone. And the trip turns into the adventure Carl always wanted when they meet a talking dog, an exotic bird, and Carl’s childhood hero, but it might be more than he bargained for.

I can’t say enough about the power of the first 15 minutes of Up. There are no words—just beautiful, colorful images and the sound of Michael Giacchino’s Oscar-winning score. I’ve seen the film five or six times, and it never fails to bring a tear to my eye—not an easy task.

The rest of the film is more traditional, but no less fun. The film contains perhaps the most beautiful animation ever, and it was, at the time, Pixar’s funniest film (until Toy Story 3 came out this year). The plot is obvious preposterous, but Pixar makes it seem plausible (or they at least make you not care about the silliness very much).

The voice work is solid. Pixar always has a knack for choosing perfect voice actors (Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo comes to mind). Ed Asner and newcomer Jordan Nagai inhabit their characters fully, while Christopher Plummer (as adventurer Charles Muntz) and co-director Bob Peterson (as Dug the talking dog) are quite enjoyable to listen to—in very different ways.

Up was the second animated film in history to be nominated for Best Picture (after Beauty and the Beast in 1991). Part of that has to do with the category expanding to ten nominees, but that shouldn’t take away from its accomplishment. This is a brilliant film—full of joy, full of heart-warming moments. It’s one of Pixar’s brightest moments, as well as a film I can watch over and over again. Despite the tears in the intro, it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

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