Most children’s movies are nothing more than marketing schemes for plush stuffed animals, or plastic dress up dolls, but it is a rare treat when one comes along that glues kids to their seats, and moves the hearts and minds of their adult chaperons as well. In another triumph for the ever solid Pixar comes Pete Docter and Bob Peterson’s Up. Nothing short of amazing, this film has everything that will fill both the young and old with wonder.
Up opens with the wide-eyed, young Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) sitting in a movie house starring up at the images of a fantastical newsreel detailing the adventures of Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). From there the audience is treated to one of the sweetest and heart wrenching love stories between Carl and his soul mate Ellie who share a mutual interest in Muntz’s proclaimed discovery of the mythical land of Paradise Falls. Their love blooms over the years, and after her passing Carl is left with a grumpy attitude, and nothing else to live for. This tragic tale ends up being one of the best done tear jerkers of the year so far, but also sets up a realistic motivation for Carl’s journey, something that is often lacking in films of this type. When Carl finally decides to go Up-UP-and-AWAY it seems perfectly natural, and at the same time wonderfully fantastical.
The beautifully rendered animation is no slouch either. Pixar continues to push the technical envelope with its lush, and textured frames. The decision to make the characters move and operate in an extremely life-like way, while the design distinctly unlife-like was a good one. It keeps the action and characters believable, but still ensures that the facade of fantasy is never broken. The one deficit this picture has is the use of the 3-D gimmick. In other animated films like Coraline the 3-D was an enhancement, but here it could be taken or left, and it wouldn’t hurt the enjoyment one bit.
Beyond just the pristine screenplay by Bob Peterson, and the amazing animation is the brilliant film making itself. Not only is this a film about getting never giving up, and finding something to live for even in the waning years of life (a pretty heady and mature theme for an animated film), but it is also about film making in general. Making a film is like a magnificent adventure, and the seeds of that adventure are usually planted in the fertile mind of a future film maker during childhood. Where George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had the serials of the golden age of cinema directors Docter and Peterson had films like Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark from which to draw inspiration, and it shows through in this film, especially in many of the visual references during the climax of the picture. Opening with young Carl finding his life’s ambition in the flickering images of a silver screen equates to all young men and women finding inspiration in the medium, in particular Docter and Peterson.
The thing that makes Up stand head and shoulders above the rest of the kid’s movie field is that it is a true film, and not just a product meant to be consumed. And while Pixar has never shied away from marketing every aspect of their films, the success they enjoy is from the quality of the work, not the type of manufacture.
El Luchador Rating: 5 out of 5 (5 out of 5)
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)