Pete Docter and company have made yet another masterpiece in the Pixar line up and while I’m not quite ready to anoint it with Wall-e and The Incredibles as my favorite, it is definitely in that just behind second tier of their work with a chance to maybe sneak its way up there after repeat viewings; which is better then 95% of the animated movies released over the last 10 years.
Carl Fredricksen grew up idolizing the great adventurer Charles Muntz who discovered a beautiful hidden sanctuary of nature in South America. The news reels that played at the theater enthralled Carl and he lived his life acting out many of the great acts in his own world as a child. One day while playing in the street he comes across an abandoned house with a lot of shouting coming out from it, calling Muntz’s catch phrases about adventure, Carl decides to investigate who has the same passion as him and the culprit is a young girl named Ellie. The two bond in quite a hurry and before we know it we are whipped into a montage of their lives together as they get married, buy the disheveled house they met in and fix it up, share their love, and constantly dream of one day visiting the seemingly fable world that Muntz found all those years ago. After nearly 65-70 years together Ellie passes away quietly and happily, leaving Carl with her book of adventures she has been meaning and hoping to fill over the years but they were never able to find the opportunity to do so. Carl’s life post Ellie is simple, sad, and grumpy. The world around him has left his house in the middle of a major cities construction and Carl with plenty to complain about and comment on from his porch. One day a Wilderness Explorer scout comes to the “aid” of Carl hoping to earn a badge for helping the elderly to which Carl sends Russell on a pointless hunt after a non-existent bird called a “snipe” that apparently ravages his garden. Russell is off on his search, to return when he has found his bounty, only to have Carl run into an incident with the law that gives the “suits” developing the land around him the leverage to finally pry him and his house off their desired site. On the morning the retirement home comes to pick up Carl, he springs a plan letting loose thousands of balloons tied down into his chimney that lifts his house from its foundation and into the city air and off to South America. Little did Carl know that Russell was looking for the snipe under Carl’s porch and he is now along for the adventure at hand as well.
The film is beautiful to look at but at the same time is the simplest design since Cars for Pixar. Now I am not complaining here, just don’t expect photo realistic shots and sets like Wall-e and Ratatouille have given us over the last couple of years. Up has a wonderful stylized look that is contained to only a few environments, but is still amazing to look at and explore. The film is also constructed nearly flawlessly with no scene ever being dull or wasted. If any complaint can be made towards the film, it might be that the flight of the house to South America might be to quick and easy, but once you get to the stuff that happens once they land, you will be glad they didn’t dilly daddle with trying to make the trip and extended sequence in the film and possibly have bloated the picture.
The humor in the film is as good as or better than anything Pixar has done, no one can argue that, but the film is more touching and heartbreaking then anything Pixar has done. The film isn’t tragically sad like the opening up Finding Nemo, but the emotional beats and punches that you get hit with as the film goes are just as effective as that heart wrenching opening scene in Nemo. The supporting characters of Dug the Dog and Kevin the Bird are both brilliantly realized and will have you laughing every time they step into frame and we are never deprived nor over stimulated with these two quirky characters they find just the right mix. The villains of the film are also realized quite well as they provide both laughs and pose a threat at the same time.
All four of the main characters in the film are endlessly likeable, relatable, and sympathetic. Carl is funny, compelling, and heart breaking at times as he swoons for Ellie. Russell is full of spirit and childish ambition, but even shows he is vulnerable and perfectly captures a kid in that even if they are playing one thing on the surface, it doesn’t mean they don’t have something else underneath it all. Dug and Kevin are also hilarious and all the same silly and used to execute some brilliant physical humor and act as unlikely heroes.
In the end, Up’s appeal is broad, broad as in all encompassing. I don’t how anyone one can go into this film and be turned off by it. It’s got something for everyone, and outside the floating house there isn’t a whole lot of terrible suspension of disbelief. I can get why some people didn’t click with Wall-e or Ratatouille but this is going to have the broad appeal Cars had, and is a much better film on top of that. You know a film is great when dogs are flying planes in the film’s climax, and that finale is awesome!, and you don’t even think twice because you are having just too much damn fun. Docter and company did a fantastic job and Up will go down as one of Pixar’s greatest films, and that is certainly saying something.
I give it in A+, even better the second time
P.S. The final shot is as perfect as I have seen in a picture in years.