Worth the price of admission, or a waste of time? Brian McKechnie and Suzanne Ellis offer you their take on the latest movies hitting screens. Read their reviews every week, exclusively on CityNews.ca.
When 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen is forced to move into a home for the elderly he ties thousands of balloons to his house and lifts off to South America.
*** out of 5 stars
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 3D and it just didn’t do it for me. When we reviewed Coraline earlier this year I praised the 3D because it worked great and blew me away. With Up it just felt out of place and really strained my eyes. The 3D 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 2D not 3D) but I don’t think you’ll be rushing to add this to your DVD collection anytime soon.
Brian’s Pixar List
9. A Bug’s Life
7. Toy Story 2
6. The Incredibles
5. Monsters Inc.
4. Finding Nemo
1. Toy Story
*** out of 5 stars
Pixar’s latest, Up, had quite an act to follow. WALL*E wasn’t just the studio’s best film to date, it was one of the best films, period, I’ve seen in a long time. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it did everything a classic movie is supposed to do, and then some.
How could Up compare? Put simply, it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely film in its own way filled with bittersweet, tearjerker moments, and genuine laughs. But on many levels it wasn’t quite up to the standard we’ve come to expect from the Pixar folks – I’d also rank Ratatouille and The Incredibles as superior fare.
Up starts off promisingly, with a love story. Carl and Ellie meet as kids – both dorky, both superfans of adventurer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer). They immediately form a bond and Ellie makes Carl promise that one day he’ll take her to Paradise Falls, South America, where Muntz had headed to find a mythical creature he swore existed. Over the years their friendship blossoms into love and they marry, and in a montage we see their mostly happy life together. They never do make it to South America, with daily demands preventing them from saving enough, and when Ellie passes away Carl vows to fulfill his promise if it’s the last thing he does.
With the home they built their lives in facing demolition, Carl, now a crotchety 78-year-old (voiced by Ed Asner), ties thousands of brightly coloured balloons to it, enough to lift it off its foundation and send it soaring into the sky. What Carl doesn’t know right away is that he’s got company: a rambunctious Wilderness Explorer (think Boy Scout) named Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai). Russell was trying to get his badge for ‘assisting the elderly’ when Carl’s house took flight and he was mistakenly brought along for the ride.
Soon, the unlikely pair find themselves in the wilds of South America, and though they can see Paradise Falls it’s a long hike with a heavy load (the house) before they make it there. And this, for me, is where the movie falls down a bit. I liked the quasi-father-son bond that forms between Carl, who never had a child with Ellie, and Russell, whose own father we learn is rarely around. But then we’re introduced to a brightly-coloured exotic bird that Russell takes an instant liking to, and a dim-witted dog named Dug. And let’s not forget that there has to be a villain in here somewhere.
The middle section of Up felt weighted down, although maybe it’s just the effect of watching Carl and Russell drag a two-storey house behind them scene after scene. Things pick up again three-quarters of the way through, and the ending is appropriately touching.
As for seeing the film in 3D? I don’t think it’s necessary – I have a feeling you’d enjoy the nuances of the film, and the quality of the animation, just fine without it.
Compared with most films made today, Up still resonates on a number of levels, and it’s a lovely story, but rightly or wrongly I hold Pixar creations up to a higher standard and this just wasn’t one of their best. That said, I imagine audiences of all ages will take it in with wonder, and enjoy it.
Suzanne’s Pixar List
9. A Bug’s Life
7. Toy Story 2
6. Monsters Inc.
5. Finding Nemo
4. Toy Story
3. The Incredibles