First you’ll laugh hysterically, then you’ll tear up, soon enough you’ll be at the edge of your seat and before you know it, you’re back again chuckling!
That’s how I’d describe my experience watching Up, the story of a curmudgeon that gets a new lease on life, in other words an emotional roller coaster! It’s a pretty strange story, but as usual, Pixar handles it perfectly. Don’t expect a WALL•E, Ratatouille or Cars; Up is entirely different and stands alone, the only obvious similarities are optimum care taken to make the best story possible and the signature Pixar charm! I even think, contrary to popular belief, this story could possibly be more appealing and accessible than previous outings, but it’s just as sophisticated.
I assume readers of Upcoming Pixar are familiar with the plot so I’ll go over it quickly, beware there are minor spoilers throughout. The movie starts with a newsreel which introduces Charles Muntz: Carl and Ellie’s biggest inspiration. With that the young sweethearts pledge to visit Paradise Falls together one day where Muntz is stationed in South America. When things go wrong and Ellie eventually passes, Carl becomes a different, angrier self, and with that he gets himself into some issues that ultimately drive him to tie thousands of balloons to his house. In between the talking dogs, prehistoric birds and the crazy explorer, Up has a strong foundation in… you guessed it, Carl’s house. This element works as Mr. Fredricksen’s constant reminder of his late wife Ellie and drives the whole film.
I’ve got to say this is with no doubt in my mind, Pixar’s funniest film. The whole theatre was cracking UP at every turn, mostly because of Carl (perfectly performed by Ed Asner), Russell (the hilarious newbie Jordan Nagai), Dug (Pixar vet. Bob Peterson) and Kevin’s antics. My favorite jokes include when Carl’s imagination turns into a genuinely unexpected and hilarious gag, the pack of dogs’s laugh out loud lines and Kevin. Don’t get me started, the bird’s just funny overall. I challenge you to hold in your laughter once you’re in the theatre this Friday. You WON’T be able to. I know a lot of clips have come out, but even so, there’s more jokes than you think and they’re all hysterical funny.
This could also be Pixar’s most bittersweet film yet, and that’s saying a lot considering sequences such as Jessie’s Song which have touched audiences deeply. There’s a lot of that feeling in Up without it being Toy Story. If you’ve spoiled yourself on the movie’s emotional opening, you’ll shed a tear, but if you’re caught by surprise you’ll bawl your eyes out which was the case with some people sitting right next to me. Up‘s masterfully animated characters aren’t there just for the comic relief, each and every major character has a well developed story arch and are dynamic to the movie. Some people have expressed worry that Dug or Russell for example are just in there for the laughs, if you thought that, you are so wrong and in for lots of emotional surprises like Russell’s motivation to be a Wilderness Explorer!
Speaking of emotion, I can’t imagine a viewer not loving Carl, Russell, Dug and Kevin by the end of this movie. Director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson, along with the whole crew of writers and storyboard artists did an amazing job with the script and story of this fast paced tale! I think it’s safe to say you will fall in love with the cast by the beginning of the second act. Most fans are hooked ever since they saw the trailer anyways. Not only is this one of Pixar’s most stylized and cartoony features, but I have to reiterate that it’s also one of their most human and touching. A great example of this quality would be Carl and Ellie’s undying love for each other which is one of the sweetest and most sincere things I’ve seen in a long time. Also, the antagonists of the film are smart, inventive and creepy. Without giving away much, Muntz (Christopher Plummer) and his dogs Alpha (Peterson), Beta (Delroy Lindo) and Gamma (Jerome Ranft) are truly vicious and unpredictable so you feel like Carl and company are in real peril. I would compare many of the action sequences to the Incredibles, but some are so quirky and completely original, they’re impossible to compare!
The balance of art and technology is intact on this pic. As you can tell from footage, the art direction of Up is superb. The characters all fit into the world nicely and mesh into this new fantastic figment Pixar has created. You truly believe in the world, characters and situations because of the emotional anchor placed during the opening. Your jaw will drop as you see Paradise Falls, Muntz’s lair (my favorite scenery in the film) and the climactic dogfight, these stunning visuals are thanks to Pixar’s technical geniuses. Another key component on this film is Michael Giacchino‘s amazing score which is a blend of 1930’s era instrumental music and an action-adventure score, too bad there’ll be no CD release. There is one theme in particular, first established with Ellie, that recurs in many locations and situations. The incarnation of the track sometimes expresses joy, happiness and love and other times fear, confusion and loss. Of course I can’t forget to talk about the 3D aspect! Up was the best 3D film I have ever seen. Bolt was fantastic last year, but Up has the makings of a great stereoscopic film with the canyons and mountains and huge scenery. It is like a window, no pop-out googly eyes here, but it’s still effective. I urge you to see a digital 3D screening!
Last but not least, you’ll get a lot out of this movie, not only does Carl get his spirits up again thanks to Russell, but the duo learn that it’s the little things that count. It’s not preachy, but I think the film wants you to never take what you have for granted because it’s precious and you have to figure that out now before it’s too late.
End of spoilers.
About My Screening: My 3D screening of Up was packed with people of all ages and every seat was full. Right before the feature, the Toy Story 3 teaser trailer played. Once it started, there was applause everywhere as audiences welcomed the famous toys back. Then the film started and surprise, surprise, there was a variation of the Pixar logo, you’ll just have to wait and see it in 3D. Unfortunately, Partly Cloudy did not play in my preview. Anyways, during the movie there were awwws at the right moment, gasps at the right moment and of course laughter all about (from adults and children) for pretty much every joke! When the film had clearly ended, applause broke out. Then when the credits sequence started (styled as a scrapbook) there was another burst of cheers and clapping. Lastly when the credits started rolling there was yet another barrage of claps.
Verdict — 10/10: To conclude my review, Pixar is 10 for 10 in my book, Up has got to be one of Pixar’s best efforts yet and that’s saying A LOT! It’s no surprise Pixar’s 10th film is still at %100 with 30 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and that audiences from Cannes to Hollywood have thoroughly enjoyed it. I just have to say that Up is NOT to be missed, it surely won’t float away in your memory, cross your heart and promise me that you’ll see it opening weekend!
Notes: Click on the actor’s names to watch new interviews from the extended Up B-roll we posted earlier. Visit the official Up website for info, tickets, games and much more. Also, thanks for taking the time to read my notes on the film, post a comment below to tell me what you thought of the review, or post your own there.
Disney•Pixar’s Up is released in US theatres this Friday, May 29th. Available in Disney Digital 3D at select theatres. Check here for international dates.