Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Up" Review

Pixar's track record continues to shine with the release of their newest movie "Up". While not as much of a masterpiece as last year's Wall-E, it still provides plenty of laughs and thoughtful storytelling that is above and beyond what would appear to be the reach of most studios.

"Up" is the story of 78-year-old Carl Frederickson (Ed Asner) who has had a lifelong love of exploration and who never seemed to be able to get out there and do any real exploring. After marrying his childhood sweetheart, who shared this love of his, there was always something preventing the couple from going to Paradise Falls in South America, the one place they truly wanted to go. Illustrated in an incredibly moving montage at the start of the film, the audience is taken through the journey of their life together, including some surprisingly mature themes that will probably go over the head of smaller viewers but heartbreaking for those who have the ability to grasp the situation.

After the death of his wife and being forced out of his home by business development, Carl decides he has nothing to lose and uses thousands of balloons to lift his house upward and spend his remaining years in Paradise Falls. Meanwhile, young Wilderness Explorer Russell is looking for his final badge, the "Help the Elderly" badge, so he can become a Senior Explorer. Carl unfortunately wants nothing to do with him, yet through a series of circumstances, Russell becomes part of Carl's journey and through this exploration they begin to learn more about each other and discover what it means to truly live a full life.

The film excels more than anything else with the characters. Russell and Carl are so incredibly well written that each decision they make is one that can be understood. The progression of the characters moves along at a solid pace and when the moment of realization occurs for Carl, you really feel his epiphany with him, which is a testament to the great writing of the team at Pixar.

And there really is something for everyone in this movie. Goofy sight gags for the kids, deep meaningful themes for the adults, all in a PG movie.

The only real negative to the film was the fact that I didn't find myself buying Carl's willingness to deviate from his original plan. It seemed slightly forced in an attempt to create some sort of conflict, but upon watching it again, I suppose it's possible that it will be better understood why he decided to make the decision that he did.

From a technical perspective, this movie is again a masterpiece. The light from the balloons, the stylized character designs, and even the 3D effects all add to create a beautiful atmosphere that could be enjoyed even if you had no idea what was being said on screen. What's also incredible is how the 3D effects were not overwhelming at all, only serving to add literal depth to the movie, and never going for the cheap poke-in-the-eye gags. Some movies can really have the 3D as a distraction, but here it was clearly part of the storytelling and they made every attempt to not abuse that.

"Up" ultimately is a touching, unconventional story that succeeds on just about every level. Upon first viewing of the trailer last year, I wondered whether or not it would be viable to have an old man as a protagonist, but, as Pixar always does, they proved me wrong for even questioning it.


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