Directed by: Pete Docter
Written by: Pete Docter and Bob Petersen
Voiced by: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer and Jordan Nagai

Pixar is now 9 for 10 (Cars being the DreamWorks-esque oddball). After previous bests Ratatouille and Wall-E, Up completes the trifecta for Pixar’s seemingly effortless creative machine.

Up’s plot takes off when young Carl Frederickson meets Ellie, a fire-cracker and adventurous girl that shares his interests. The two eventually fall in love and spend a lifetime together dreaming of going to South America and following their youthful spirits. But when life gets in the way, their dreams and plans are grounded. Seventy years later, after Ellie has died, Carl is forced to move to a retirement home and give up the home and life he built with his wife. Before they can take him away, he and his home fly away on the grand adventure the two always dreamed of.

This of course goes well until Carl finds he has a stowaway on board, an 8 year old boy scout named Russell, who is attempting to get his “assisting the elderly” badge. Their relationship is initially polar, but as the two embark on a great journey of deflating dreams, talking dogs and an evil villain which change the course of their friendship.

The brilliance of Up, unlike Avatar, had little to do with the 3D technology. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if the film was more enjoyable in standard 2D where the Pixar camp’s great artistic attention can be appreciated in full. Up’s third dimension comes from storytelling, which is Pixar’s forte.  The tender tale of an old man coping with the death of his wife and their youthful dreams is a “hit you right at home” kind of story. It is heartwarming and thoughtful, but never seizes to be entertaining. Scenes with the bird, Russell and the dog interacting with the ole’ grump are priceless cleverly constructed jokes which blow DreamWorks’ slapstick one liners right out the window.

The first 30 minutes of the movie is much like Wall-E, which some silent Chaplin-like tender comedic scenes that are pure directorial brilliance. If there is any complaint, however, it is that Up loses that carefully constructed style in the beginning in favor for a more cinematic story arch to please family oriented audiences. This was the same complaint I had with Wall-E and many Pixar films before, which is beginning to expose Pixar’s Hollywood style formula.

Even so, the formula is working, and is probably a must with the Disney franchise. These films still seem to work, both commercially and artistically, and are far better than the formulaic and socially destructive Disney movies of the past.

Up, although heavy with story, substance and creativity, manages to be light and effortless enough to sail up and away, and while it does it is raising the bar for Disney-Pixar.

Grade: B+

3 thoughts on “BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Up

  1. Not to gush over this thing, but Up was my favorite movie of ’09, barely edging out Basterds. Can’t remember the last time I saw a movie where I laughed so hard and cried like a bitch all within the span of two hours. Favorite Pixar movie yet.

  2. Pingback: Complete Oscar Coverage « CyniCritics

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