Pixar, Disney’s computer animation division has over the past fifteen years enjoyed success that has even outdone the more traditional hand-drawn output of its owner. Let’s not forget that these are the people behind “Toy Story” and its sequels(s), “Finding Nemo,” ”The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” and the movie is directed by Pete Doctor who previously worked on “Monster’s Inc.” As it was released in cinemas in the new 3D format, this film pushes new boundaries in animation technology but thankfully the story and character creation never suffer under this. The result is 90 minutes of unabating fun and adventure and a new masterpiece to add to Pixar’s ever growing collection.
Carl Fredricksen is a young budding explorer who dreams of adventure just like his hero Charles Muntz. One day he meets another enthusiast Ellie and together they go on an adventure of a different kind: That of life. Fast forward to the present day and Carl has grown old and grumpy, his beloved wife Ellie has died and his cosy house is threatened by construction diggers on all sides. Following an alternation with a construction worker he is forced to enter a retirement home. However instead of giving in, Carl begins on a quest to fulfil Ellie’s dream – to have a house at the top of Paradise Falls in the Amazon, he ties thousands of helium balloons to the house, literally take it there. What he hadn’t counted on is enthusiastic young wilderness-explorer-boy-scout Russell who accidentally ends up on his porch when the house takes off. The house is blown away into a storm and sets the unlikely duo off a new adventure in South America, with an eventual reunion with Carl’s boyhood hero.
What Pixar have always managed very well is to make children’s movies that contain very adult themes (such as parenthood in “Finding Nemo”) and this trend continues here and many of the images on show here may be hard for young children to swallow. Indeed some of “Up” may well make you cry. One of the film’s most heart-rendering comes close to the beginning as we see Carl and Ellie live through the trials and tribulations of life – the loss of their child, the chasing of a childhood dream that will never be realised while the pair are alive. Not a word of dialogue is needed to portray the love, care and ultimately heart-break that defines their relationship, Doctor confident in letting the images and the music (more about that later!) speak for themselves. But when dialogue is employed, it’s smart and genuinely funny.
That’s not to say however that up isn’t funny and many Pixar and Disney trademarks are present here: Enthusiastic but inexperienced youngster. Check. A strong sense of childhood awe and wonder. Check. Annoying but loveable talking animal. Check! This is arguably the studio’s most enjoyable, exhilarating and funniest film to date, every frame filled with incredible detail and colour. Each character is meticulously and lovingly realised and there is never a dull moment. The film’s main emotional heart lies with the contrast between Carl and Russell, on one side the grumpy but kind at heart Carl and the youthful and innocent concrete-explorer Russell on the other. While Carl’s character, his emotions and ticks are clearly the centerpiece of the show, it’s Dug the adorable (and talking) dog that gets some the film’s biggest laughs. His dopey and oddball energy are simply hilarious and if his exclamation of Squirrel!!! doesn’t crack a giant grin on your face you must be dead inside.
The music for “Up” was composed by Michael Giacchino. The composer enjoyed a bumper year in 2009 with “Star Trek” and “Up” as well as the score for the “Lost” TV series. And that is before we even mention the truckloads of gongs heaped on this score during awards season! Giacchino is well versed in animation as well of course having supplied excellent score to “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” and in many ways “Up” is a continuation of that style. Waltzes, comedy and light jazz are prominent throughout and the highlight of the score is the cue Married Life which accompanies the sequence described above. Unfortunately Disney never released this album on CD and it is only available as a digital download at inferior quality. However by all accounts a great score.
Up was the deserved winner of the Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars. It is perhaps one of the best animated films ever and defines the genre as it exists today. It’s a damn near perfect film so see it if you can.
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