Review: ‘Up’

Hampered by a poor, almost cryptic advertising campaign, Up returns Pixar to their storytelling roots as experienced in previous films like The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

What the trailers tell you is that the elderly Carl Fredricksen (voice of Edward Asner) inexplicably ties his small two-story house to thousands of balloons to launch it skyward, only to become saddled with a kid named Russel (Jordan Nagai), a talking dog (voice of Bob Peterson), and incur the ire of some old man (voice of Christopher Plummer). What you need to know is that Carl has actually led a full and happy life with his wife Ellie, but on the day of her passing, one lifelong dream remained unfulfilled: to follow in the footsteps of their favorite adventurer to find a hidden land in South America and experience all of its wonder. Of course, meeting your heroes doesn’t always turn out the way you’d hope in much the same way that “adventure” is often more exciting when listening to how others risked their lives and survived the unknown.

Enough harping on what the studio decided we didn’t need to know while trying to convince us to watch their new movie anyway. All you should concern yourself with is Pixar has again crafted a well thought-out story that resonates deeply and on many levels. Getting to know why Carl is the way he is becomes the heart of the story, and as he changes, the story never strays from that point of view as each new discovery opens his eyes a little further. Forget that little doe-eyed trash compactor from last summer; I triple-dog dare you to argue that WALL-E is even same class as this (and you only get to cite Buster Keaton once).

What sets Pixar storytelling apart from your average (and now commonplace) 3D animated feature is that Pixar usually doesn’t fall into the slapstick trap, telling a believable story first and letting humor bleed through naturally. Little Russel is of course Carl seventy years earlier, filled with an adventurous spirit but also having to overcome situations Carl never did, like winning the approval of an often-absent parent. Last year’s Kung Fu Panda managed much the believability but, being DreamWorks Animation, still couldn’t resist the inherit desire to be zany with animation simply because you can. So-called toilet humor often undermines any degree of seriousness once exposed, and it takes a crafty writer to sneak such elements in without turning the entire production into a Warner Bros cartoon.

While kids can enjoy the film as is, adults won’t be bored with the deeper meanings (although they may have to explain a few tragedies that the story glosses over). Of course the animation is state of the art as are the 3D digital effects (try to see it in the specially-equipped 3D theaters for maximum effectiveness). The voice cast is spot on while the animation is breathtaking; Pixar again makes it all look too easy. It’s just too bad they couldn’t trust us with more of the story in earlier advertising rather than simply snow us with pretty animation, but it’s also kind of hard to wipe away sentiment wearing 3D glasses, too.

(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)


  1. Saw it just a bit ago, and loved it! No, I won’t forget about the little doe-eyed trash compactor (been laughing about that comment all day) but this could possibly be a superior film, yes. At the moment, I think I may need to see it again just to catch the stuff I missed while I was riveted to other parts before that.This is a very busy film! Oh, and I freely admit that in the midst of the fun, the movie got me teary-eyed … twice.Great job, Pixar. (But yes, I still love Wall-E. He’s adorable).


  2. I still contend that WALL-E is Pixar’s weakest film to date out of ten.

    Keep in mind, however, that I’m comparing Pixar’s work to itself. Or, put another way, out of the first ten sports cars that start off at $100,000 or higher, which one would I least like to own?


  3. So you’re not a Wall-E hater, huh? Technically? I doubt if I’ve seen all ten of them. Heck, I didn’t know there were ten of them. Going off to research this….

    OK, I have not seen “A Bug’s Life” (sort of refuse to, as it looked incredibly stupid) and I have not seen “Ratatouille” (wanted to, just missed it entirely).

    Monsters, Nemo, and Cars are among my favorites, and the Toy Story films are excellent. “The Incredibles” was also great. However, I would have to rank them this way, from best to least:





    Toy Story 2

    Toy Story 1



    Ratatouille (possibly an unfair ranking, as I haven’t seen it, but hard to imagine that I’d like it better than the others above).

    A Bug’s Life (even the trailers annoy me on this one. Ugh. The lady bug being a dude was a bit funny, and I like the insect with the German accent. The ants annoy the heck out of me, sight unseen).

    I know, I know, I can’t judge what I haven’t seen. I intend to see Ratatouille eventually, as it looked entertaining. And heck, having learned to spell it, I may as well see it, right? The hard part’s over.


  4. Ha! That’s practically the reverse of my order!

    Ratatouille has an incredible amount of heart, so I’d rate it higher than Up, but The Incredibles is my all-time favorite. Between sheer storytelling, genre self-awareness, and a serious introspection on heroes and villains, it just amazes on every level.

    A Bug’s Life? A little better than Antz, but just as forgettable, except for maybe Phyllis Diller and Kevin Spacey.


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