Movie Review: UP

by Lisa Oppenheimer
Average rating of 4.5/5. (2 Ratings)
My rating
  • I love it!
  • I like it a lot!
  • I like it.
  • Just okay.
  • Not for me.

Rated: PG for some peril and action.
Recommended for: all ages.
Run Time: 98 minutes

Pixar Hits Its Usual Amazing Heights with UP

Pixar's new movie UP packs more in the first five minutes than most movies squeeze into two hours.

There's a whole, glorious lifetime in those 300 splendid seconds. I laughed, I "awwwed," I swooned, I cried, and when those five minutes were over, I could have happily called it a standalone short and left the theater feeling like I'd gotten every penny of my money's worth. But that would have meant missing UP's other 93 minutes. And that would be a travesty.

Like everything else Pixar, UP -- all 98 magnificent minutes -- is a marvel. It's not just that it's pretty (and it is). The wizards behind Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and last year's Wall-E don't stop at satisfying your eyes; they make you feel stuff, often more than you would watching films starring actual, you know, people. In Pixar's hands, the happies are happier, the sads are sadder, the heartwarming more poignant. From the moment those twenty-thousand balloons magnificently unfurl from crotchety old Carl Fredricksen's roof and uplift his house toward the heavens (and more importantly, toward South America and Carl's quest to finally fulfill his beloved Ellie's dreams), UP becomes the kind of adventure you lap up wearing the happy face of a puppy hanging out a car window enjoying the joy of a breeze on a warm day.

Carl's dramatic relocation is the septuagenarian's big raspberry to the world. After decades in his happy nest, the world has butt in and the bulbous-nosed loner is the last holdout against "progress," his abode standing solitary at the center of a highway interchange like Virginia Lee Burton's Little House in the children's book of the same name. So Carl does what any self-respecting coot would do -- he uses the wisdom gained from 30 years as a balloon salesman to transform his house into an airborne RV for the senior road trip of a lifetime. But even at five-thousand feet, the world comes a-knocking -- literally -- in the form of chatty, pre-adolescent Wilderness Explorer Russell whose surprise appearance as stowaway turns Carl's around-the-world solo trip into Dennis the Menace meets Mr. Wilson.

What befalls the duo is a trip for the ages -- a lost world, some hilarious animals, a fallen hero and a suspenseful climax. But, it would be a shame to blather on too much and spoil the fun. UP is at its heart an adventure, and like any adventure, a big part of the ride is how it unfolds. The movie is funny -- often riotously so. It's astute and observant. It's suspenseful without being too actiony. Warm without being maudlin. It's Pixar's magical recipe of words, music, and computer keystrokes that create fully formed characters capable of emotion more palpable than some human actors can communicate with flesh and blood. And, it's got a big old heart. In 3-D (worth the investment, by the way), the simply masterful becomes so enveloping you can almost forget you're watching from a stadium seat in the multiplex. Honest.

Even better, this balloon fires on all engines. Like a cloud formation that can be either a bunny or a rocket ship, the UP you see depends on the eyes you're watching it from. Standing outside the theater after the movie, I saw a mom dab at her still-damp eyes while her 10-year-old son energetically reenacted some of the many laugh-out-loud moments while declaring UP the "Funniest! Movie! Ever!"

Laugher? Weeper? Adventure?

Whatever the answer, you can be sure you'll leave with your money's worth.

Kids Will Like:
Wondering if kids will like it? Eleven-year-old Michael says a big "Yes!" He and 10-year-old McCalah were wowed, especially by the animals. And Aunt Yvonne said the appeal wasn't limited to school agers: "My 5-year-old grandson would love this!" Multi-level action appealed to just about every age. Talking dogs -- dogs in general -- provided some of the film's highlights. The stream-of-consciousness chatter that comes out of these pooches is so funny and seemingly authentic, you'll wonder if the geniuses at Pixar really did figure out a way to convert barks to language. And would it surprise anyone if they did?

Parents Will Like:
UP was pleasantly surprising even to the skeptical. "I actually thought it was going to be 'eh,'" said Yvonne. "But I loved it! Definitely for adults and kids!" Grownups found the relationship between Carl and Ellie to be a joy -- we should all be so fortunate in our romantic lives. Good luck keeping a dry eye. Visually, UP is a feast. For all its beauty, I'm sure it plays well in -D, but the enveloping experience of the 3-D version is worth every penny. Russell is the embodiment of every small chatty child you've ever met, and Ed Asner's Carl is as endearingly crotchety as Asner's other famously loveably grump, Lou Grant. With sentiment matching humor, count on as many tears as guffaws. My only puzzle: The villain looks like Kirk Douglas but speaks like Christopher Plummer. As for the end? Two words: contented sigh.

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