Ah, Pixar! It seems that they can do no wrong. Even their weakest films are generally leagues ahead of most studio features, and it all comes down to one thing: story. Yes, that’s right, story. If they can get you crying with storyboards and pencil sketches, then it doesn’t matter how technically proficient their films are. And yet, they manage to push the boundaries of technology every single time. No exception is their latest feature film, Up.
Directed by Pete Docter, the film concerns Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), who spent his whole life with his adoring wife Ellie (Elizabeth Docter) planning on being adventurous and taking a trip to Paradise Falls in South America, in the footsteps of their hero, Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Muntz was an adventurer in the 1930s, but after bringing back a skeleton of a 13-foot tall bird, was dismissed as a fraud. He then vanished when he vowed to prove he was not a liar.
Carl and Ellie live a happy life, working their jobs at the zoo. Unfortunately, they are unable to have children, and life keeps getting in the way of them being able to save up enough money to take their much desired trip. When Ellie passes away, Carl is all alone, and the world around him has grown tall and modern – and a land developer wants to buy his house to build a skyscraper. Grumpy and just wanting to live his life in peace, Carl is annoyed when Wilderness Explorer Russell comes calling, wanting to “help the elderly” to get the last badge he needs. So he sends him on a fool’s errand, and believes that he has seen the last of Russell.
After an incident where Carl is remanded to the Shady Acres Retirement Home, he decides to escape to Paradise Falls instead – by filling up thousands of helium balloons, and floating his house there. Once he’s airborne, however, he discovers that Russell has stowed away on the porch, and soon the two embark on an epic journey that will take them to Paradise Falls. But they aren’t alone there – defrocked explorer Charles F. Muntz and his league of talking dogs are still there in search of a living specimen of the the mystical 13-foot tall bird, and vow to stop anyone from stealing their discovery.
What follows in the next 90 minutes is a delightful journey and the growth of a heartwarming relationship between a bitter old man and an exuberant kid who just wants to help. With the added humor of Kevin (the large 13-foot bird), and the lovable talking dog Dug (Bob Peterson), Up is a delight from start to finish. It’s also the first Pixar film presented in 3D, but there are no gimmicky effects to show it off – instead, it’s just a natural part of the film. Michael Giacchino’s uplifting and emotional score is pleasant and (like all of the Pixar films he scores) has a nice jazzy end title sequence.
Up might not be considered one of the best Pixar films, but it’s got a solid storyline, great memorable characters (I’m still convinced that Carl is based on my old high school Geometry teacher Mr. Newberry), a dastardly villain, some great comedic moments, and some wonderful heartwarming parts as well. In all, it’s a really good film, and definitely worth seeing.