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Up (2009) – Movie Review

Up movie poster

Written by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, based on a story by Docter, Peterson and Thomas McCarthy
Directed by: Pete Docter
Starring: Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo

My Advice: See it in 3-D by all that is holy.

Carl Fredericksen (Asner) is reaching the end of his life. And the great adventure he thought his life would be turned out to be a completely different adventure, with fellow life explorer Ellie. But now that she’s gone, he’s a bit rudderless. That is until circumstances force him to A) rethink that whole original adventure thing and B) get out of town. Since he couldn’t bear to leave the home he shared with his wife, he’ll just have to take it with him…

I always talk about the fondness I have for things that work on two levels. A recent example I bring up often is the book Coraline: exciting thriller for kiddies, even more of a nailbiter for adults. A more perennial example are the Looney Tunes cartoons, which can be enjoyed by kids but were made for adults and work perfectly on both levels.

[ad#longpost]Up is like a very grown up version of a Looney Tune. Kids watch it and will no doubt find it a version of “My First Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.” Look, a big funny bird. A funny old man. A talking dog. More talking doggies! And the film works on that level. The dog bits alone will entertain people of any age.

But for adults, the film hits the big Ls: Love, Life and Loss. I don’t want to go too much into this lest I spoil the effect for you, but it’s literally like you’re watching a different film from your kid. They probably won’t catch subtle things like an empty chair and What That Means. And they probably won’t understand why you spend a good portion of the first fifteen minutes of the film with tears rolling down your face. So be warned. It’s not even the loss of a loved one–no, because that’s almost too easy. It’s coupled with how you deal with the loss of a deferred dream. Which is devastating on a completely different level.

So for kids, an adventure movie. For adults, an adventure on a whole different level. It’s…pretty goddamn amazing that it works as well as it does. And moves as well as it does.

The voices are perfect, as you might expect. Ed Asner is excellent as Carl, able to bring equal parts humor and gravity to the situation (no balloon jokes intended). Christopher Plummer is excellent as the adventurer and newcomer Jordan Nagai is excellent as Russell. Still, I find my favorite is Bob Peterson as Dug, the talking dog. He also provides the voice of Alpha, and that’s a joke in itself that I can’t reveal. But Peterson brings a dog’s thoughts to life as excellently as you might think (and Dr. Ian Dunbar, dog behaviorist, is thanked in the credits).

The 3-D aspect of the film isn’t overplayed…as I said in in talking about Bolt (and I think Dug and Rhino are cousins) you don’t get an In Your Face moment. It’s just for gorgeous, stunning depth. And when you’re dealing with South American jungle vistas then depth is good for you. Would you miss anything just seeing it in 2-D? Yeah, I seriously think you would.

Pixar continues to blow away notions of animation and it’s clear that they are working to change our notion of animation and could get us where we need to be in this country: catching up to Japan, where animation can be for all ages not just kids. The fantastic feel of this adventure owes a debt to many, but one is especially Miyazaki, who Pixar head burrito John Lasseter has expressed his admiration for on many occasions. And this is a good thing. It’s amazing to watch a particular medium come to maturity in a country–and Pixar is to be thanked for it.

Back to the film at hand: see it, if you haven’t figured that out yet. See it with somebody you like having adventures with. Or would like to.

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  • My clan of five (ages 6-45) were all enthralled by the magic. The 3D film is simply- beautiful. The story will touch every heart. Hats off to Pixar!

  • I have enjoyed the fact that I can see other films in this one. The growing relationship between Carl and Russell are very reminiscent of Jacque Tati’s Mon Oncle. In that film there was the modern life inclosing in on the old ways of life. This is evident with the high rise being built around Carl’s home. There is also the scene when the house is being tossed about through a storm and Carl make a grand effort in saving the items that we falling off the wall. The fluid motion bears a striking resemblance to Tati whom Rowan Atkinson immolated while preforming his Mr. Bean character.

    All I can say is that the folks at Pixar are ever so brilliant in giving us such movie magic.

  • My wife and I had the same discussion when we came out of the movie house. Our daughter saw the movie on a different level from us. As a couple, we can identify with the experiences and emotions that the old man went through. Our 7-year old daughter was fascinated and enjoyed the funny characters and the chase at the end. And as the review stated, it worked on both levels. To Disney and Pixar, well done and we hope you continue to make more heartwarming, adventure-filled, fun family movies.

  • My reaction was the same as many professional writers who had seen the film. The beginning was some of the best story telling ever in any medium. I think I got salt from the popcorn in my eye about 15-20 minutes into it. Now that was how you love someone.

  • I saw this movie today when my school presented it. I think it was a sad and comedy movie(in my opinion). Since I’m so young at the age of 13, I’m not expected to understand what “Carl” was being sad about, but I do, when I’m older and maybe married, I hope to spend all my time with my wife and family. This movie was awesome and I hope Disney produces more movies like these.

  • This was a terrible and depressing movie. I would not have expected the fun and enjoyable Disney and Pixar pair up to produce something so dark and awful. Every time the movie started to look up another depressing plot turn made the movie even worse. I kept expecting things to get and better but they never did. I am severely disappointed with this terrible movie and would not suggest letting any children ever see this melancholy train wreck unless you want your kids to turn into suicidal goths.