Aug 24, 2009

[Movies] Up (2009)

UpI've been a huge Pixar fan ever since they first started releasing feature-length films. I mean seriously, Toy Story was a landmark production in its own right and with every subsequent release, Pixar made it very clear that they had a very unique style of animation coupled with great comedic writing, thus leading to some truly classic films over the years. No wonder Disney went to such lengths to retain them beyond Cars.

Pixar has always done a great job of creating animated movies that have something in store for the young and old alike. That's not as easy as it sounds but Pixar has managed to capture that consistently over the years. Beyond that, it seems Pixar's style is also evolving, especially past WALL*E. The prior movies were highly dependent on great voice acting and excellent writing to drive the stories and the comedy. Now there's a lot more their movies than that and it's something that hearkens back to the silent film era - a particular device used a lot in this movie.

Up is Disney-Pixar's tenth feature film and the first to be officially released in Disney Digital 3-D (Prior films were only re-released in the 3-D format).

Up follows the life of Carl Fredricksen, a 78 year old widower who has become rather bitter and miserable over the years since the death of his wife. He now lives alone in his house which is not in the middle of a major development project. After an incident with one of the construction workers leads to him being forced to move to a retirement community, Carl decides to pursue the lifelong dream he and his wife shared about taking a trip to Paradise Falls in South America. However in order to do this, Carl manages to rig his house to fly using 10,000 balloons (given he used to sell them as a living). Dragged along for the ride is the young Wilderness Explorer (boy scout) Russell who was trying to convince Carl to allow him to assist him in order to earn his last merit badge.

What follows is a pretty amazing adventure (this is Pixar after all) that features a rich set of characters, my favorite being Dug, the talking dog (as seen in the poster image above - ain't he ADORABLE?). Oh Pixar, you know I'm such a sucker for golden retrievers!

What was most striking to me was how they decided to follow Carl's early life pretty much without dialog, similar to how they handled WALL*E. There was no confusion over what was happening in terms of the story - it was just a sequence that was lengthy but didn't feel long and became an interesting way to cover the many years of Carl's life together with his wife. It really made me think of the silent movie era when you were just left to admire the quality of the shots all set to a simple background score. Pixar managed this masterfully in this film, thus capturing the depths of Carl's feelings for his wife and the strength of their love / marriage of so many years.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 13:  (L-R) Director Pete ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The ensemble of characters was just brilliant, for lack of a better terms. Carl really captured the persona of the cranky old man and Russell was the epitome of the classic young boy all precocious and excitable. Kevin (the bird) was naturally comedic without words and Dug was just...SQUEE! Gods, I'm sorry, I just found him sooo adorable (which is what he was designed to do to us viewers) and he so captured how we all imagine dogs to think, especially overly friendly ones like golden retrievers.

Comedic moments aside, this isn't a laugh-until-your-sides hurt kind of movie like how I found Finding Nemo to be. It was comedic but it had a pretty compelling story to tell as well. I have to admit I was pretty surprised by that fact since I didn't really get what Pixar was planning based on the trailers alone. It just seemed to be a story about a crazy old man who decided to make his house fly with balloons. Thankfully it was a whole lot more and it was a nice middle ground between the rather artsy style of WALL*E and the more mainstream comedic styles of many of the prior movies.

Voice-acting was good as always and naturally John Ratzenberger still had a voice role to play - you'll just have to figure out who he is in the movie, hehe. The 3D aspect didn't make that much of an impact on me, but that may be more due to the quality of the theater that we watched the movie at, especially since it was non-IMAX.

Up is another great addition to the Pixar library of movies. I'll admit it's not necessarily my favorite of them all but it definitely ranks up there. Oh, and I really , really love Dug!

Up gets 4 merit badges out of a possible 5.



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