Review: Up

Up (2009)
96 minutes
Rated – PG
Directed by Pete Docter


Grade:  A

I feel like a broken record but I have to say it again… Pixar has done it!  Their tenth animated feature is their tenth success.  Although it’s not as groundbreaking as WALL-E, not as funny as Finding Nemo, and not as kid-friendly as Cars, Up still delivers on every aspect and is a great movie for everyone.

In a way, Up is one of Pixar’s most mature films since it deals with domestic and marital relationships along with coping with losses and death.  There was a remarkable montage in the beginning of the film that showed Carl and Ellie as they grew up together, got married, bought a house, etc.  But the light and cheery mood quickly changed.  In a brief scene that was only for an adult’s understanding, it was brought to the newlyweds’ attention that they’re unable to start a family.  And then at the conclusion of the montage, Ellie passes away.  This was an extremely touching couple of minutes that was dealt with complete attention to detail and sensitivity to the audience.

The story moves forward and concentrates on Carl’s life after Ellie.  As youngsters when they met, they both dreamed of following their idol, Charles Muntz, and going on an adventure to Paradise Falls in South America.  Always dreaming of their adventure, the complexity of life and bills grounded the couple.  After Ellie has passed you can see the loneliness that takes over Carl.  He cherishes the house as a memorial to Ellie.  He has many pictures and items that linked to Ellie that Carl could speak hours about.  But as the world quickly changes, Carl is seen as an unwavering old man unwilling to budge.

After being sentenced to a retiring home, he escapes in dramatic fashion: by releasing thousands of balloons from his chimney and flying away.  Only one thing, he inadvertently brought along Russell, an Asian American Wilderness Explorer Scout who needs to help the elderly to achieve his final badge to become a Senior Explorer.  All Carl wants to do is land the house next to Paradise Falls, but he finds this task much more difficult than he imagined.

Additional subplots surface while Carl and Russell explore through the jungle.  One subplot is the adventure of dragging the house and balloons to the very spot beside Paradise Falls, which is ultimately all Carl cares about.  There are animals that Carl and Russell bump into along the way that adds new conflict (along with laugh-out-loud moments) to the unlikely group of travelers.  And during the journey there are other issues revealed that adds more depth to this already wildly meaningful film.

Pixar films are not meant to be viewed the same way as their predecessor.  One cannot watch Up the same way they watched WALL-E.  In WALL-E, there was a love story between robots and a blatant concern for the environment that was expressed through outstanding visuals of a post-apocalyptic world.  Up deals with the human condition of loss and remorse as the characters re-align their priorities on their way to obtain their initial goal.

Another thing about Pixar films… the past handful have definitely been made with an intention to please the adult audience.  That’s the magic Pixar movies contain.  They have the story-lines that amuse children:  a rat that can cook, a robot falling in love, an adventure through a jungle in South America.  But at the very same time there is depth to every movie for the mature folk to enjoy:  inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, human society will experience devolution if we’re not careful, and to use the memories to move on from the death of a loved on.

Overall, this wasn’t Pixar’s best film but it most definitely fits in with their quality of excellence.  It’s one of their most heart-felt films that had a few tear-jerking moments, so that’s relatively new for the studio.  What you’re left with is an outrageously fun adventure with a soft spot right in the middle.  Once again, Pixar has made a fantastic movie.


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