Reviews

Up

4

Pixar reaches for the skies once more…

Robots, insects, monsters and cars – if it’s got fur, scales or moving parts you can bet Pixar has drawn it.

With a few exceptions, however (The Incredibles, Ratatouille’s Linguini), John Lasseter’s team has stayed away from human protagonists, a holdover maybe from the knowledge that their first attempt to render flesh and blood in CG form (Toy Story’s toy-torturer Sid) left major room for improvement.

Time and technology have both moved on, though. And with Up, Pixar’s 10th full-length feature, the company has finally come up with a homo sapiens hero as memorable and loveable as Woody, Buzz and Nemo. Meet Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner, hitherto best known for his role as Lou Grant on Mary Tyler Moore), a 78-year-old curmudgeon who wants nothing more than to be left alone in the home he shared with his late wife Ellie. Hunched and squat, with a jaw as rigid as the frames of his clunky spectacles, he’s a cantankerous, grumpy, sour-faced grouch. Yet the film’s barely begun and he’s already stolen our hearts. How can this be?

For the answer, look no further than The Greatest Moment In Movie Animation, as revealed by Total Film last issue: an early montage that beautifully charts Carl and Ellie’s life together from playful childhood to tragic separation. A masterclass in wordless, poignant and economic storytelling, it’s Pixar’s finest achievement so far – better even than Wall•E’s Chaplin-esque pottering on that futuristic junk-heap or Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl’s flashback in Toy Story 2. And it leaves us ready to follow Carl anywhere, even if it is to a remote table-top mountain in South America he and Ellie had always planned on visiting.

Walt Disney said for every laugh there should be a tear. (He also said there should be no unions in Hollywood, but we’ll let that one slide.) Lest you assume Up is one long sob-fest, we should hasten to add that once that gut-punching salvo is over the movie settles into a more traditional groove – one that’s wacky, exhilarating and consistently funny.

With the help of thousands of multi-coloured, helium-filled balloons and some basic engineering, Carl and his house take to the skies in a magical moment of surreal wonder. Unwittingly aboard is eight-year-old Russell (Jordan Nagai), a tubby Wilderness Explorer whose determination to obtain his ‘Assisting The Elderly’ badge has led him to stake out Carl’s suddenly airborne porch.

Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter could have easily spent the rest of his film exploring this odd-couple relationship. Instead he takes an arguably more challenging route, getting his mismatched duo to Paradise Falls in double-quick time for an earthbound adventure involving a flightless bird, a pack of talking mutts and a face from Carl’s childhood, long thought lost.

This is all terrific, if chaotic fun, the sheer lunacy of dogs with thought-verbalising collars giving rise to pricelessly absurd humour. (“You two shall have much rewardings from Master for the toil factor you wage!” chief pooch Alpha tells his subordinates in a malfunctioning voice that sounds like he’s been inhaling Carl’s helium.) Yet try as it might, the film’s second half never attains the sublime heights of the sophisticated first, despite a splendid finale involving a Hindenburg-like dirigible and a literal aerial dogfight.

Pixar has always trod a blurry line between its desire to stretch the boundaries of its medium and its need to deliver commercially viable and lucrative product. Up, with its daringly low-key beginning and a mobile-home concept reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle, certainly goes further in the first direction than their previous offerings. Yet, it comes at a small but significant cost: a conspicuous ramping-up of child-pleasing mayhem in the latter stages and a sentimental, almost cynically feel-good coda.

It’s as if Docter feels he needs to reward audiences for contemplating mortality, or placate infants who may have been getting a wee bit restless. Captivated and charmed as you are, you’re left wondering what marvels Pixar might one day achieve should it ever be freed from its family-friendly imperative.

Still, it’s a tad churlish to ask for more from an outfit that’s already given us so much and that, with next year’s Toy Story 3, may yet surpass its own high standards. Perhaps it’s enough that Up represents one of its most emotionally-rewarding movies, as well as the most satisfying animated feature thus far made in the 3D format.

No doubt there’ll come a time when Lasseter’s mob will disappoint; after all, what goes Up must eventually come down. But for now, let’s be like Russell and go along for the glorious ride.

Verdict:

A coming-of-old-age story that breaks the heart, tickles the funny bone and fires the imagination, Up is a captivating, exuberant delight. And did we mention it contains The Greatest Moment In Movie Animation? Oh.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • imidlane

      Oct 2nd 2009, 6:03

      5

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    • glamasp7

      Oct 3rd 2009, 15:26

      5

      (i'm from Portugal, so I saw it earlier than UK, in August) Up is, once again, a great achievement from PIXAR, a magnificent and criative work!

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    • totalmilf

      Oct 11th 2009, 23:11

      5

      Make 'em laugh, and make 'em cry. Never has this been more true than with 'Up'. Roaringly funny, yet heartwrenchingly sad in just the right measure. The 'short' before the movie is also brilliant - so check it out on the big screen if you can. Once again, Pixar has delivered what it does best: an original, highly enjoyable film, which ensures you leave the cinema on a feel-good high.

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    • hulk68

      Oct 13th 2009, 7:34

      4

      Most normal people will disagree but I think Wall E is the greatest Pixar achievement to date. Very good film and heartbreaking though.

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    • KATELM76

      Oct 13th 2009, 10:54

      4

      Pixar has done it again! I laughed, I cried and I marvelled in the attention to detail. It's a film for all the family with comedy moments for the kids or for the adults. I wasn't sure whether I would enjoy it as the concept seemed a bit odd, but the mind was soon turned with the thought provoking opening. Loved it.

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    • iancurtiz

      Oct 15th 2009, 11:59

      5

      unbelievable quality out of PIXAR again and the first film I've seen in 3D that genuinely drags you in! Heartbreaking and life-affirming at same time..probably the most adult of the PIXAR films so far but brilliant all the way through.

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    • apbgreen

      Oct 16th 2009, 9:55

      From Total Film's review of 'Up'; Up, with its daringly low-key beginning... certainly goes further... than their previous offerings. Yet, it comes at a small but significant cost: a conspicuous ramping-up of child-pleasing mayhem in the latter stages... It’s as if Docter feels he needs to reward audiences for contemplating mortality, or placate infants who may have been getting a wee bit restless. From Total Film's review of 'The Incredibles' ...a talky... opening half-hour suddenly swept aside in a barrage of breathless set-pieces, with only the final 20 minutes effectively mixing both. You criticise 'Up' for pandering to the need for entertainment in a family film (which is what a family film is, surely?) and criticise 'The Incredibles' for being too 'talky' and not enough action. In my opinion both these movies deserve five stars - they have integrity, heart, wit and rich, believable characters, all areas in which "Titanic' is woefully lacking, yet that somehow garnered a five star review?! I think 'Total Film' needs to make its mind up want it wants.

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    • FastestMilkman

      Oct 24th 2009, 16:42

      2

      Thought it was a bit boring, myself. Not as much fun as it'd like to think. Prefered 'The Incredibles'.

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    • jonnybodz

      Nov 3rd 2009, 20:51

      4

      Watch this movie for free for those of you that are short on money at http://MoviesWatch.info But if you can afford it go to the theaters and support the movies

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    • captainchod

      Nov 5th 2009, 14:01

      5

      I was a tad scepticle about this Pixar offering, but I needn't have worried. I loved it from start to finish (including the montage at the beginning which nearly had me in tears already!) and it showcased what the wonderful people at Pixar do perfectly

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    • thedazzler73

      Nov 15th 2009, 21:33

      4

      Another great Pixar movie. Only dropped a star as the dogs got on my nerves a bit. Still think that Toy Story 2 is the stand out Pixar jewell and cannot wait for the third instalment.

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    • dztop

      Nov 19th 2009, 16:13

      2

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    • jacoblost48

      Nov 28th 2009, 18:16

      4

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      It’s as if Docter feels he needs to reward audiences for contemplating mortality, or placate infants who may have been getting a wee bit restless. From Total Film's review of 'The Incredibles' ...a talky... opening half-hour suddenly swept aside in a barrage of breathless set-pieces, cancer symptomswith only the final 20 minutes effectively mixing both. You criticise 'Up' for pandering to the need for entertainment in a family film

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