Film Review: Up

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 5 Oct 2009


At last making the trip across the Atlantic some four and a half months after being released in North American theatres, and barely a couple of weeks before the States’ DVD release, Pixar might have infuriated a few film fans, but Up is more than worth the wait.

It’s fairly obvious by now that the Disney-owned animation studio revel in turning the most unconventional characters into loveable, multi-dimensional. In advance of their last release, WALL•E, some suggested they might have bitten off more than they could chew, revolving the film around an ugly, rusty little trash collecting robot, and similarly in Up, Pixar have set themselves high hurdles to jump.

About a grumpy old man named Carl Fredricksen (Asner), the highlight of the pensioner’s day is foiling a multi-national property developer’s plans to erect a tower block on a plot his house sits right in the middle of. When the developers accidentally knock over his childhood post box, however, Carl lets his anger get the better of him and after konking the van driver over the head with his walking stick, at last the multi-nationals have found their way in.

Seemingly defeated in his quest to keep his house, Carl takes drastic action and as demolition beckons he moves house on his own terms. Attaching a thousand helium balloons to his house, Carl sets them free through his chimney, ripping the house up from its foundations and taking flight across the city.

After his wife tragically passed away, Carl had become something of a loner in recent years so planned on his worldly trip to be a one-man mission, but when he hears a knock at the door, an eager young Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Nagai) bounds in. Too late to return him home, Carl begrudgingly takes Russell along for the ride and the pair set a course for Paradise Falls in South America, and fulfilling one of Carl lifetime ambitions.

Of course, after making it to the South American jungle, and with Paradise Falls in sight, their objectives soon become blurred and as Russell discovers a rare tropical bird and the dastardly adventurer trying to capture it, the pair must form an unlikely alliance to protect one of nature’s great secrets.

The great success of Pixar’s real trailblazers has always been the depth of love and emotion you feel for the characters, and here it is no different. Carl and Russell are to die for; after a hugely powerful and striking opening sequence you’l feel right at home with Carl, despite his grumpiness, and Russell’s boundless energy can do anything but captivate the viewer.

With such an adorable lead duo, it’s so easy to be swept up by the story. Equally as charming and touching as Carl and Russell within it, the dialogue is polished as each story strand really feels like it has a purpose and takes you somewhere. Come the closing credits you’ll be left with a new thirst for life and when the plot is based around a message that finding true love and great friendship is one of life’s greatest treasures, you can’t go far wrong, especially when the boys from Emeryville are behind it. As always in all Pixar films, Up captures utterly unrealistic event, but grounded by heartfelt characters and an intelligent and perfectly rounded script, it feels like it could all be going on just around the corner.

By now we’ve come to expect that what Pixar offer in terms of story, they’ll more than back it up with the visuals, but that doesn’t mean it should go unmentioned, not by a long shot. Up looks fantastic; the visuals ar
e glorious, full of life and though the humans remain stylised away from an entirely representative face, some of the surrounding environment doesn’t look far off photo-real.

What is perhaps a little unexpected is just how funny Up is. Arguably Pixar’s most laugh out loud film to date it’s the evil adventurer’s team of dogs, each equipped with a thought translator, that set the hilarity alight. Sprouted phrases like “I have just met you and I love you” and “I will get the ball and I will bring it back” and a joke about squirrel that forgets to store food for the winters, Dug the dog will have you in tears.

Even with the Pixar magic behind it, the 3D in the film adds nothing so catch Up in 2D if you can. The most important thing, however, is just that you catch it. Up has has the wow factor of Pixar’s very best work and pushes the Toy Story movies, Finding Nemo and WALL•E all the way for the title of their finest. Up is another animated film that, especially given the new 10 strong nominations line-up, is a prime contender to be recognised by the Academy Awards in the best film category.

Don’t be surprised if Up is sitting pretty atop our top 10 films of the year list come the New Year.


FAN THE FIRE is a digital magazine about lifestyle and creative culture. Launching back in 2005 as a digital publication about Sony’s PSP handheld games console, we’ve grown and evolved now covering the arts and lifestyle, architecture, design and travel.

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