Pixar’s latest, Up, tells the story of a grump old widower (Ed Asner) befriended by a young kid (Jordan Nagai) who sets off on a wild adventure.
What could easily have been a paint-by-numbers tale is given the Pixar treatment. This isn’t Gran Torino; it’s so much more. In fact it’s arguably the most grown-up story the company has done, and quite possibly the best flick Pixar has ever made.
The film begins by giving us a brief history of Carl Fredricksen (Asner). Rather than simply giving us a grumpy old man the plot takes the time to let us get to know him and see how he became the person he is as the main story begins. This may seem like a small thing, and some may find it too much backstory, but it’s just one example of how Pixar goes the extra mile in terms of character, animation, and story. Could the movie still work without these scenes? Yes. Would it be as good a movie? No.
This extra effort can best exemplified (without giving too much of the plot away) by the simile example of the end credits. Aside from giving us pictures of the characters after the events of the film take place the screen is filled with shorthand notes and several humorous Wilderness Explorer badges (who knew you could get a Nuclear badge?). Are these necessary? Again, no, but like the opening scenes of the film they showcase the love that went into making this movie the best it could possibly be. It’s the small things which turn a good movie into a great one, and Up puts forth the effort every single time.
Aside from being laugh-out-loud funny, this film includes some beautiful heart-wrenching scenes, some no longer than a brief moment of a montage, are as moving as anything I’ve seen so far this year. Ed Asner is the heart of the film as the crusty old curmudgeon he’s played so well for years, and the look of Carl fits his voice perfectly.
I’m usually a more a fan of animated films which center animals, cars, or robots because animators are still struggling with humans, but Carl and Russell look and feel as real as anyone we’ve seen animated on screen so far. There is so much care and love taken with each scene that Pixar proves once again it’s playing at an entirely different level than anyone else in animation today. Russell could easily become annoying, and in a lesser film would, but here the character is rounded and given depth. Yes, he’s annoying, but that’s not his defining characteristic.
Throw in some of the funniest animated dogs I’ve seen on screen, beautiful landscapes, and even another funny cameo from John Ratzenberger, and you’ve got more than enough for me to call this movie a must-see. The film has everything you want, and although young kids might not get the nuance of many scenes they should still enjoy themselves and be able to find more with each viewing as they mature. I think Up is Pixar’s most complete film to date.
Go see this film. Go now, go many, many times. Pre-order it on DVD or Blu-ray. Yes, it’s that good. And make sure you get there early as Pixar has included another cute short “Partly Cloudy” with the feature.