REVIEW: Up

Up
96 Minutes // USA // Pixar & Walt Disney
dir. Pete Docter (co: Bob Peterson)
Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 AMC – Yonge + Dundas
starring: Ed Asner & Jordan Nagai

Recently, Pixar seems to be on somewhat of an Oscar onslaught – it’s last two films being considered strongly for top prizes, and most notably, WALL-E and it’s run at a Best Picture nomination. In this writer’s opinion, it was the lack of box office pull for an animated film that made its competition for the honor at a limited threat. Many said that it would never be bested in terms of Pixar’s future releases — so I suppose it’s ironic that the next film to be released by the animated powerhouse would be considered to be as good, if not a greater overall product.

Up is the second directorial effort from Pete Docter; his first holding my previous first place for Pixar, Monsters, Inc. Needless to say, I do believe that this man is the greatest animated mind in the industry today. Although it does bother me that he hasn’t worked more, perhaps he’s aiming for quality over quantity, and with qualitative films such as this and Monsters, Inc. perhaps I should be grateful.

Akin to his first effort, this film is highly comical, endearing in appropriate scenes with the right amount of build-up, briskly paced throughout the entirety and an all-round grade A entity.

The story about a young mischief and a suppressed elder seems quite similar to many a great story. Dennis the Menace jumps into mind, but this formula calls for less hatred and more warmth. Carl Fredricksen is a bitter old man. Well, perhaps bitter isn’t quite as correct a term as I’d like to use… I’ll opt for ‘currently depressed’. Through a beautiful montage of the adventure of love and life that precedes Carl and Russell’s first encounter, we learn that Carl fell in love at an early age with a girl that has a parallel personality, but is also an avian lover. Let the memorability and tragedy ensue – in a few minutes the film builds plenty of character development and allows room for the fragile atmosphere to consume the viewer. Both of these are enhanced by Michael Giacchino’s inspiring and sentimental compositions.

Throughout Carl and Russell’s voyage, they encounter hardships and make new pals; most importantly, a adorable, dead-panned little scamp by the name of Dug. His accurate sentence structure and love for all things ‘dog’ is relentless humor, as well as somehow surprisingly easy to connect to; especially for dog-lovers.

Primarily because this is a film for everyone there is unrealistic elements that counter-act the realism. For every sincere and heartfelt dialogue, you’ve an old man doing barrel rolls to keep his house from flying away. What I’m trying to sum up is that this is just a film for everyone – there is no way that anyone with an inkling for child nostalgia should dislike this feature.

With little character detail (ie. not as much detail as a film like WALL-E has in exterior appearances) the film is similar to Monsters, Inc. once again. There are a few little distinctions, but the film generally relies on the story to build the characters, rather than the looks as Pixar’s latest was so focused on. This takes the edge off of the maturity the film seeks and allows the story to be enjoyed by everyone that is watching.

However, on the flip side, the film doesn’t keep any of the characters at the two dimensional front. Carl is built heavily from the get-go, so we all understand that. With Russell, I figured he’d get a bit tired throughout, but the story adds some childhood innocence and despair to allow for connection to those with childhood pains. Even the villain has a backstory that – when thought through rationally or with a bit of connecting the dots – allows for sympathy. Or perhaps I’m messed up with the villain, but I did feel bad for him.

All in all, I consider this Pixar’s grandeur. It has yet to be topped and to expect it to excluded from Oscar’s major prizes would be a dire mistake. [9/10]

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