Monday, June 1, 2009

Up (2009)

Pixar has done it again. Disney constantly raises the bar when it comes to state-of-the-art animation. The latest addition to the Pixar portfolio is UP. I figured I would arrive to the early 3-D screening of this animated film, expecting to get a decent seat. I arrived fifteen minutes early to provide a bit of additional cushion. When I arrived, the theater was packed with the exception of the front two rows…so I spent the entire film literally looking, well…UP!

In true Pixar tradition, UP begins with a cartoon short. The short for UP was a dialogue free examination of the relationship between a stork and a storm cloud. In keeping with the babies delivered by a stork idea, we learn where the babies come from. The storks are all assigned a cloud. Each cloud creates babies with a special mixture of precipitation and magical lightning. While most clouds are creating puppy dogs and kitty cats, one particular dark cloud has a propensity for making alligators, porcupines and sharks. The haggard stork assigned to this particular cloud seems to be at the end of his rope. The estranged relationship is reconciled in an interesting fashion. The story is sweet and original with an old-fashioned feel. It was a great warm-up for a movie that also had a throwback feel.

Up relates the story of a young boy named Carl Frederickson (Ed Asner and Jeremy Leary), who idolizes adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), a renowned world traveler. Carl discovers a young gal, Ellie (Elie Docter) who shares his passion. The two experience a lifetime together in the length of a musical interlude. Without the use of dialogue, the animators demonstrate the shared dream of visiting Paradise Falls in South America , represented by a money jar and paintings. The money jar is constantly raided as life’s emergencies continually siphon off the fund. The tempo of the music turns melancholy as we observe Ellie grow old and sickly. The film takes a sad turn as we watch Carl sitting in front of the funeral home mourning.

We learned a lot about our main characters in the short interlude at the beginning of the film, but the real story was one of healing, self-discovery and companionship that begins after Ellie’s passing. Carl finally makes good on a promise and decides to head to Paradise Falls . He unwittingly invites along a guest, Russell (Jordan Nagai). Russell is a scout trying to earn a “help the elderly” badge. His quest puts him on a collision course with the driven mourning Carl. The two experience an amazing adventure as they both realize that they need each other. The story is a warm and original adventure with plenty of touching elements that move the audience.

UP was written by Bob Peterson based on an idea created by co-Director Pete Docter and writer Thomas MCarthy. The story had an excellent pace, interesting characters, rich dialogue and touched on a variety of emotions. The film had a fun plot with great attention to details. The multi-tiered story had simple elements like talking dogs (who are quickly distracted by squirrels) to appeal to younger viewer layered over more mature themes that will tug at the heart-strings of adult viewers. The writing was excellent on every level. Peterson was also co-Director with Pete Docter.

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