Pixar Presents a Pixar Film by Pixar: Pixar’s Up (Review)

Posted: December 14, 2009 in Review
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Up Review

There’s no easy way to say this: with their latest film, animation gods Pixar are unashamedly going straight for your heart. They intend to reduce you to a blubbering wreck and there’s nothing you can do about it. Pixar have your soul in their hand and they know it.

Even that opening statement can’t prepare you for what lies within the deceptive colours, cutesy animals and warm humour of Up. This is straight up, hard-nosed, blunt force trauma adult drama. Don’t bother taking the kids to see it – they won’t get it. Sure, they’ll love the brightly coloured animals and the silly voices and visual gags, but they won’t get it. Up is a film that has more layers than wedding cakes, and is as deep, rich and fulfilling as eating said cake. By yourself. In secret. At someone else’s wedding.

Aging widower Carl Fredrickson (Edward Asner) wants to be left alone to spend his remaining years in the house he and his wife built. When that house is threatened by a city development, he decides to follow his lifelong dream of heading to Paradise Falls and fall in the footsteps of legendary explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Along the way, he picks up do-gooder Wilderness Explorer Russell (Jordan Nagai), squawking bird Kevin and dopey dog Dug (Bob Peterson).

If that premise sounds a little bizarre, you must be forgetting that this is a Pixar film and bizarre ideas are their bread and butter. This is a buddy movie, a road trip about a chalk-and-cheese odd couple pairing of a grumpy old man and a hyperactive, intense, talkative child. The unique combination of these two forces bring the laughs on thick and fast, which, combined with the movie’s underlying darkness of bittersweet emotion, means that jokes that would normally bring on a small giggle become rip-snorting belly laughs.

It’s a hysterical film that dares to have a real emotional heart at its core. Every character (even the dialogue-free Kevin) is completely three-dimensional, each with their own history, complex motivations and desires, all of which are explained so easily and freely that in the hands of poorer writers it would weigh the film down with an audible clunk. Not so in the talented hands of Pixar.

A statement earlier on claimed that kids wouldn’t understand the beauty of Up. There’s no doubting that they’ll enjoy the humour or the action or even the partnership of the two protagonists. The thing they won’t understand is aimed squarely at adults: the power of dreams. With this latest cinematic masterpiece, Pixar are daring to do the impossible – to encourage adults that there is still hope in the hopeless, joy in the joyless and that even life itself is an adventure. There is no difference between a child pretending cracks in the pavement are canyons and an old man saving up for that holiday of a lifetime. Everything happens if you want it to; you just have to dare to dream for it.

With this expert demonstration in storytelling, humour, animation and genuine love, Pixar have managed something truly unique: a film open to absolutely anybody with a working heart. In doing so, they’ve done something utterly astounding – they’ve bettered themselves. It seemed unthinkable, but they’ve done it. This is the best they’ve ever been, a playful sermon on life by masters on top of their game who want to encourage others to join them at the loftiest of heights. If they continue this trend, critics across the world will have to find a new way of rating films. But what else were you expecting?

5 stars

  1. extremitiesspeak says:

    Great post.
    I love this movie. I think it even topped Finding Nemo, for having the perfect mix of child friendly humor, and equally as family friendly, adult situations and life-lessons.
    Amazing film. Definitely one of my favorites.

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