‘Up’ is your typical, run of the mill Pixar animated film. That would be that it’s uniformly excellent. The problem that Pixar / Disney has to deal with when it makes these movies of theirs is that they have to compete with themselves, and that can’t be easy. If you stumble across someone saying something negative about this film or any Pixar / Disney film the chances are the comments will sound something like ‘It’s not as good as… (Insert Pixar movie here). If anybody asks me, and they didn’t, nothing compares to ‘Finding Nemo’ which in my opinion is one of the best movies ever made though Wall – E is pretty darned special in its own right. But this is about ‘Up’ which is as I said is typical, highly entertaining, virtually flawless cinematic art from those cats at Pixar which suffers only from not being as good as ‘Finding Nemo’, but is still better than most everything else out there.
As a boy Carl Fredrickson (eventually voiced by Ed Asner) watched with awe the exploits of world wide dirigible explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) hoping to one day to duplicate his heroes adventures. At least until Charles is disgraced for allegedly fabricating the skeletal remains of a rare bird. Same goes for the spunky little Elle (Elie Doctor) who has the same dream as the somewhat sickly Carl with the two becoming fast friends and eventually, as the years fly by, husband and wife.
In probably the best and most informative montage ever, we live the life of Carl and Elle, their hopes and dreams, their ups and down, their triumphs and tragedies. What balloon salesman Carl really wanted to do is just take his beloved on that adventure of a lifetime but life being what it is kept getting in the way until one day it was sadly too late. Now Carl sits alone in the house that he built with his wife, comforted by only his memories.
Then one day Carl assaults a dude. Hey, he’s old and cranky so these things happen. At least he’s not driving. Anyway it’s off to the retirement home for Carl but he has a better idea; why not attach a load of helium filled balloons to his house and float off to South America to give his late wife that adventure he promised her? Why not indeed? And where did Carl get all that Helium? Though Carl’s plan works like clockwork a slight wrench was thrown in this scheme by an unintended stowaway named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who was simply trying to earn his Eagle Scout equivalent badge by assisting an ancient dude.
Now the unlikely February / December pair finds themselves in the dangerous forests of South America, along with a talking dog named Dug and a rare, exotic 8 foot flightless bird. All Carl wants to do is take his house to the peak where he promised his wife one day they would end up but this plan is altered slightly by the appearance of Carl’s childhood idol Charles Muntz who is still looking for that freaking bird which disgraced him way back when. As a side note Carl looks to be eighty something which would probably make Charles around a hundred and fifty. As it turns out Charles is like the worlds meanest dude. Seriously. He REALLY wants this goofy bird that Russell has become quite fond of and he will kill to get it. Seriously. This man has absolutely no issues dropping an overweight 8 year old boy out of his blimp to plummet to his death. Well Carl can’t very well let this happen which will lead to the old man readjusting some priorities and leading to the adventure of a lifetime.
The one thing I didn’t like about this movie was that whenever I went to a website such as IMDB or some other entertainment site I was assaulted by this unavoidable huge banner of Dug the Dog. If you so much as waved your mouse slightly past this banner it would automatically expand and you would have to suffer through the Dug clip, that you’ve already seen like fifty times already, with all the escape tapping in the world unable to stop it. Is all this necessary Disney? I know you have to blow the advertising budget on something but do you have to make my life miserable in the process of pumping up a movie that probably doesn’t even need advertising? You might want to save some of those dollars for ‘The Princess and the Frog’.
Rant aside, ‘Up’ is wonderful story told by masterful storytellers built around the classic concept of those 1940 style cliff hanger movies. I saw the 2D version of the film and as per usual the animation was flawless and the colors popped off the screen, though I would guess that Pixar storytellers worry more about theme, story and construction more than pixel shaders and hardware refractions. Lou Grant does a wonderful job capturing the character of Carl Fredrickson through his voice acting, though Mr. Asner is becoming an old hat at this voice over business as we have been enjoying his voicing of Ed Wuncler in the Boondocks cartoon series for a while now. Another level or animated genius? That would be the Boondocks. The voice acting by the rest of the cast was outstanding as well.
While the narrative probably lacks some of the complexity and depth of ‘Wall-E’, it is a very engaging tale dealing more with modern family issues and ageism centering around Carl’s lonely life and how we sometimes treat the elderly, and how easily they can be cast aside. Director Pete Docter doesn’t wear kid gloves either in his approach to handling this plot device or how Carl, conversely, is doggedly stuck in the past. Even Russell’s character and his fractured family situation is handled deftly, not a central focus of the movie but something somewhat small which defines the little boys character and actions.
But seriously who really cares about all that? It’s nice and all, and it is cool to have characters with a little depth and complexity but what we really want to do is to just have some fun and ‘Up’ is a heckuva lot of fun. It rides on rails, it has plenty of old school swashbuckling action, it is a little violent justifying its ‘PG’ rating but above all this is, as expected, a great time at the movies. Typical and run of the mill from Pixar.