Compared to the other nine films in the Pixar universe Up falls into my bottom three. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from being a bad film (it’s the top of the bottom as you can see below). The story is great and the animation is beautiful. But like Cars and A Bug’s Life it didn’t grab me the way I thought it would and I doubt I’ll be interested in repeat viewings as much as WALL*E or Finding Nemo.
Up tells the story of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen (perfectly voiced by Ed Asner). Carl and his wife Ellie (who he met as a child) lived the majority of their life wanting to go on an adventure to Paradise Falls in South America. Unfortunately they never made it because of the mundane day-to-day stuff getting in the way. We see Carl and Ellie grow old together in a montage of time passing that ends on a sad note (which left most of the theatre choked up, myself included).
Carl is now a grumpy old man living out his remaining days alone. After he has an incident with a construction worker (in which he hits him with a cane) he is forced to move into a home for the elderly. That’s when he decides it’s time to go on his adventure once and for all. Before the men from Shady Oaks can take him away he unleashes thousands of balloons from the roof of his house. The house detaches from the ground and goes up, up, up! Off to Paradise Falls Carl goes. Only Carl has a visitor with him; young wilderness explorer Russell (voiced by newcomer Jordan Nagai) who was under the front porch when the house took flight.
The interaction between Carl and Russell is brilliant. Although Russell’s energy and eagerness annoys Carl at first you can tell he sees himself in the young lad. And Carl becomes more of a father than a grandfather to him which is a nice twist (another touching scene that choked me up was when Russell talks about his dad being too busy for him). The only other major character in the film is famous adventurer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer). He and his pack of talking dogs (they talk via a special collar) are the bad guys.
This is Pixar’s first attempt at 3-D and it just didn’t do it for me. When I reviewed Coraline earlier this year I praised the 3-D because it worked great and blew me away. With Up it just felt out of place and really strained my eyes. The 3-D also washes out the colour which is a shame since the film uses an amazing palette (especially with the balloons). Without the 3D the animation is top notch. The design of Carl and his squareness works beautifully. Seeing him grow stubble over the course of the trip was also a nice touch. And the balloons flowed with such realism it was magical.
My big problem with Up was the talking dogs. Dug (the funny brown one you see in the trailer) was enough. An entire pack of them was downright annoying. The squirrel jokes were unoriginal and got old fast. This is where the movie started to slip down my list and never redeemed itself. The dogs seemed like an afterthought in order to keep the kids entertained. But this isn’t a kids film and it had so much more going for it till this point.
Overall Up is a great film, just not Pixar great. I do recommend seeing it on the big screen (in 2-D not 3-D) but I don’t think you’ll be rushing to add this to your DVD collection anytime soon.
*** out of 5 stars
Below is the order I’d rate all the Pixar films to date.
9. A Bug’s Life
7. Toy Story 2
6. The Incredibles
5. Monsters Inc.
4. Finding Nemo
1. Toy Story