Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
When the Pixar Animation studios start out to make a film, they do the important stuff first: they start with a really good script. And their latest effort, titled Up, has just such a solid foundation.
The opening sequences of Up are a montage of the life of Carl Fredericksen, from his days as a kid, how he met Ellie, the love of his life, and how things progressed for them. Now at age 78, Carl is a lonely widower living in the same house where they had always lived. It’s now in the middle of urban development, surrounded by high-rises and lots of noisy construction.
One day while reminiscing through a scrapbook, Carl realizes there are many unfulfilled dreams in the past and decides to make one of them come true. Carl and Ellie had always envisioned recreating their house on the edge of a legendary waterfall in South America. So Carl, with the help of a whole boatload of helium balloons, decides to fly the existent house to the fabled location.
Once airborne, Carl discovers he’s not alone. A young Wilderness Explorer named Russell, who’s been working on his “assist the elderly” merit badge has inadvertently come along for the ride. As these two bond on the journey, it’s obvious that each needs the other very much.
As you might expect, the plot is filled with animated movie devices: snarky villains, talking critters, hair-raising adventures, funny stuff and the like. But those are all just the cherries on top of this wonderful movie cake.
The character of Carl is drawn so that he resembles Spencer Tracy in his later years, and as voiced by Edward Asner, he rather sounds like Tracy as well. The script is peppered with funny lines and situations, as well as thoughtful, contemplative dialogue. The direction is by Pete Docter, who has been with Pixar from almost the beginning. His only other feature film as a director was the very popular Monsters, Inc. With the release of Up, it seems obvious that Docter should be expecting more directing assignments in his future.
One of the most amazing things about Up is the transcendent music score by Michael Giacchino. This is the original score of the decade, and should be at the top of the list for next year’s Oscar nominations. Using the music to comment on and move along the montage of Carl and Ellie’s early life is reminiscent of the “breakfast table” scene in Citizen Kane.
Is Up a perfect film? No, very few are. There is an element of sadness about the proceedings, which is as it should be, given the story. But sometimes it feels just too sad. And, because of that, I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with the ending. But those are minor quibbles given the enjoyment evoked by this movie treasure. It’s beautiful to look at and a pleasure to listen to, both the score and the dialogue.
There are two other things to consider when selecting a theatre in which to view Up. First, there is a new Pixar short called Partly Cloudy, which is supposed to show before the feature. The buzz says this is one of the best Pixar shorts ever. But I don’t know, as the theatre I attended elected to not show it. When you go, you need to ask and make sure the short is playing. Secondly, Up is in 3-D. It’s an asset, but not essential, so if you see it in 2-D, it should be just as good.
The PG-rated Up is now showing almost everywhere.