Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Movie Review - Up

I finally got a chance to check out Disney-Pixar’s “Up” last night. This was the traditional 2D version, so I can’t comment on 3D, but it was excellent. Don’t read on if you don’t want spoilers.

The film starts off with young Carl Fredrickson meeting his future wife Ellie as the two children discover they share a love of famed explorer Charles Muntz, who is in seclusion in the South American jungle after his findings were questioned by science. What follows is probably the most depressing but also incredibly moving openings in Disney history: a montage of Carl and Ellie’s life as they get married, learn they can not have children (undoubtedly the first miscarriage in Disney film history,) and repeatedly attempt but fail to save enough money to make the trip to Muntz’s South America. Finally Carl decides to surprise Ellie by booking the trip but she dies before he can tell her. Thanks Pixar, now I want to kill myself.

Anyway, things keep getting worse for Carl as the film picks up with an entire modern high-rise being built around his house that he refuses to sell. Then, one day, he assaults a construction worker with his cane and is declared unfit to live alone and committed to a nursing home. This scene also might mark the first appearance of blood in a Pixar movie. In order to avoid the home, Carl inflates thousands of balloons and flies away in his house. A young faux-Boy Scout named Russell tags along after being stuck under Carl’s porch while trying to track a snipe in order to earn his “assisting the elderly” merit badge.

Carl and Russell end up in South America but on the wrong side of the mountain where Ellie always wanted to live so they begin to move the house, encountering a giant colorful bird that Russell names Kevin and a dog named Doug who has a special collar that allows him to speak. Doug is a member of a pack of dogs, all with talking collars, assigned to track a bird like Kevin by none other than Muntz. Muntz thinks that Carl has come to steal his discovery and tries to kill Carl and Russell as well as trap Kevin, who we later learn is a mother bird. This where the action picks up and, of course, Carl saves the day and gets over his “grumpy old man” personality in warming up to Russell and Doug. They end up defeating Muntz (who falls to his death in typical Disney villain fashion) and return to civilization where Carl becomes the father-figure that Russell never had.

The story is heartwarming and I tried not to spoil all of the nuances for those who have not seen it (in particular the specific reason Carl warms up in the end.) Doug and the talking dogs provide most of the comedy and are a highlight of the movie with some classic lines (“I do not like the cone of shame.”)

Disney and Pixar have another classic on their hands with “Up.” It’s an incredibly unique story that has all of the traditional elements of a great children’s movie while also being of a superior quality that appeals to adults…like basically every Pixar movie. It was directed by Pete Doctor, the same guy who directed “Monster’s Inc.” The two films share a common quality that the premise seems incredibly “out there” and you really have no idea what you’re going to see going in but then, when you watch it, it all makes sense and works perfectly.

“Up” isn’t quite as perfect as “Finding Nemo” but it definitely ranks up there with the best Pixar movies (no pun intended.) Go to see this one for sure.

Overall Rating: **** ¼

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