Friday, 7 April 2017

Up (2009)

Fig 1 - Up Poster
Disney Pixar's tenth feature-film Up follows the story of an elderly widower named Carl (Edward Asner) on a quest to reach the fabled 'Paradise Falls' as a final tribute to his late wife, Ellie. The couple had aspired to explore the legendary Falls since childhood, though as they grew older in blissful domesticity, life found a way of passing them by. As such, Carl brings it upon himself to fly their home to the Falls using an inordinate number of balloons and, not long into the journey, realises he is not alone aboard his floating abode. Russell (Jordan Nagai), an enthusiastic boy-scout in pursuit of his final badge, is found clinging to the outside porch and thus Carl has no choice but to continue on with him reluctantly. After a terrible storm, the two wind up in South America within walking distance from the Falls. However, they must venture through unexplored territory in order to reach their destination before the helium keeping the house afloat expires...

The film was released to overwhelming critical acclaim, with Up being the first animated feature to open the Cannes Film Festival, in addition to being the first Pixar film nominated for Best Picture at the 82nd Academy Awards. If that wasn't enough, the film took home Best Animated Feature in 2009, winning a subsequent Grammy, Golden Globe and Oscar for it's iconic musical score.

Fig 2 - Up - Russell and Carl
As for my opinion of the film, well... I had only seen Up a handful of times before now and I was convinced that it was fairly mediocre for the standards of the studio, albeit with some very emotional moments. The problem for me was always that the film started so strongly and fell down significantly in the third act. As much as I still somewhat believe that to be the case, I don't think I've given this film the credit it deserves in the past. For instance, I don't remember laughing quite so much at a Pixar film until now. Writer/directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson were really able to fine-tune the dynamic between young and old in this film which, along with the presence of a few eccentric animals, really made Up one of the most comical outings in Pixar's filmography. Having said that, the film is also responsible for some of the most heart-wrenching scenes in cinema history, let alone animation. Of course, the opening 'Married Life' montage establishes the picturesque relationship of it's leads, following them through the years in their day-to-day challenges, culminating in one heck of an emotional gut-punch.

Additionally, the point at which Carl realises Ellie has filled her 'Adventure Book' with photographs of their life together literally brings a tear to my eye as I write this. Perhaps the most important moment in the film, this serves as the closure Carl needs in order to accept that he is allowed to embrace an adventurous life following the loss of his greatest love. Even the scene prior to this, in which Carl finally reaches the Falls with the house in tact, he realises that it is all for nothing without Ellie by his side. It's moments like these that make Up one of the most poignant animated films ever made, perhaps even more so than Toy Story 3 (2010).

For these reasons, despite where the story falls down in places, I am unable to give the film anything below four stars. I don't think it's a masterpiece, but what it does provide is a perfect blend of comical and sentimental thrills that will undoubtedly leave you an emotional wreck. The finalé may be a bit up in the air, but isn't everything in this movie?


Fig. 1 Up Poster (2009) From: Up - Directed by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson

Fig. 2 Up Screenshot (2009) From: Up - Directed by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson

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