PREMISE: Left moderately bitter, and ultimately alone, after his wife’s passing, Carl Fredricksen is now pressured to sell his house in the face of urban development, but he’s not moving one inch. After a slight altercation with the contractors waiting outside his door, he’s being forced out of his home and into an assisted living facility for the elderly. Just before he’s set to be taken away, he unleashes thousands of balloons (that he filled in the middle of the night) tied to his house and is now going to lift the house and take it with him to the one destination he and his late wife never got to go to. Unfortunately he’s not alone, as Russell (the ‘Wilderness Explorer’ who was helping Mr. Fredricksen) was on the porch during lift off and is now party to the journey. Together they set off and develop an unlikely friendship as the journey progresses.
HIGHS: Pixar, regardless of any of their films’ plot, are simply stunning visual works of art. I think they could make a film about a box of paperclips and it’d be fascinating to look at. UP has this incredible realness in terms of texture lighting and just sucks you in with the graphics. Now as plot goes, the first 15 minutes or so (which established Mr. Fredricksen’s marriage to his wife) could have easily been a stand alone short film and taken home boatloads of awards; it was just that good. For a montage to establish a connection that put you on the same emotional level as the main character, as deeply as Pixar did, was nothing short of magnificent and magical. It should have left anyone watching UP felling like they knew Mr. Fredricksen all his life – it was so impacting and touching. The determination and love he had for his wife is something that I think WALL·E started to capture, but this film had it in spades. Similarly the compassion Mr. Fredricksen had for his wife is an example everyone should take home and hope to apply it to the things/people they are passionate about. Later, there was an incredible, albeit reluctant, bond that Mr. Fredricksen and Russell formed over the course of the film that should teach everyone that you can find a companion in the most unlikely of places and that everyone can be helpful to you in their own way, it just takes time to discover what that is. All heartwarming/friendship forming accolades aside, this film had some great humor and the action (especially for a Pixar movie involving a child) was actually pretty exciting at times. Personally, I always get a kick out of movies that take the design and style of the 1940’s. So this movie, with is base story line starting in the 40’s and having that Rocketeer/Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow feel to it, was pure eye candy for me.
LOWS: UP seemed to run a bit long in the middle and while putting characters in perilous situations isn’t new to Disney or Pixar, this seemed a bit too extreme for the ‘types’ of characters that were in this film. Also (call me a stickler for realism) there’s a bit of ‘brain checking’ needed if you can believe that (although a bit tuff and tumble) Mr. Fredricksen could do even 1/10th of the things he endured in this film. Also, even in the world where you can get a house floating through the sky on thousands of balloons (tied to maybe just 50 to 60 lines attached in the fireplace), adding talking (mechanically assisted) dogs and one supposedly ‘uncatchable’ bird would only seem to be plausible in this type of kids movie. I’m only really pushing this issue as a ‘low’ since the movie is more or less based on real human beings and not, per se, magical toys, talking fish or living cars. Still Pixar’s films are kid friendly and doubly geared for mass audiences so believing in make believe is just an unspoken rule (and the same for almost every Disney movie while we’re at it). Also, I really didn’t care for Partly Cloudy, the short before the film started – maybe I’m holding the bar very high because of how well Taken and Presto were done.
RULING: While just a little long and possibly too ‘action oriented’ for what this movie was trying to be, UP scores points across the board with its touching messages of love, friendship and dedication. I wouldn’t say this was their best to date since I believe Wall-E is one tough act to follow, but UP is definitely one for all ages and I enjoyed this touching movie very much. Looking back I believe that Cars seems to be the weak link in Pixar’s chain of successful films as it just didn’t have that same level of quality that their other films just ooze. I’d say UP much better than Cars but is still no Wall-E, The Incredibles or Monsters, Inc. but it definitely has that Pixar charm and (although light on the character list) is a delightful and endearing film.
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED