Thursday, June 4, 2009

Up ***1/2

***1/2 out of ****

Pixar is at the top of the world. Still.
Up is Pixar's tenth feature film, a major landmark, and its first feature film in 3-D, which all of the future films from the company are set to be in this format. Up has both the imagination of Toy Story and the touching emotion of Finding Nemo, making this one of their better films.
It opens with a young boy dreaming of adventure and meeting a strange girl that he will later marry. A long, wordless montage sequence chronicling their lives together is probably the most touching thing I've ever seen in an animated movie. After his beloved wife Ellie's death, our hero Carl (voiced by a perfect Ed Asner) is left alone, an old man with nothing to do with his life except stay in his house and bicker at the outside world. After circumstances force him out of his home, he ties thousands of balloons to his house and turns it into a giant blimp of sorts, lifting it off the ground and away from society. However, an annoying little boy named Russell accidentally tags along, forcing Carl to claim responsibility for him. Their destination is South America, specifically a place called Paradise Falls, that Carl and Ellie always wanted to go to but never could because of the daily strain of life. They get there but get separated from the house, forcing them to walk on the ground, towing their floating house by the garden hose. They encounter a strange giant bird and several talking dogs (Dug being the best and the funniest of them), and an old man, Charles Muntz (voiced by a sinister Christopher Plummer), who was Carl's childhood hero. Muntz went to South America in self-exile searching for the rare bird that just happens to be following Carl and Russell around. Muntz is so desperate to get his hands on it that he's willing to kill whoever stands in his way.
The film is filled with harrowing (and at times violent) adventure, and the usual hilarity that marks all of Pixar's work. But there's a heart underneath it all that unifies it and keeps it from going off course. Adult viewers will love to hear the usual cameo appearance of John Ratzenberger, the only actor to have a role in all ten films. Many will want to see the film in 3-D, but honestly, it's probably not worth the extra money. Much of the 3-D effects are subtle, although they do add to the amazing animation that has become standard in Hollywood. Instead of things popping out of the screen, we see depth and peer into the world, like through a window. There is probably little difference between the 2-D and 3-D versions.
I would recommend this film to all but the smallest children, and anyone who likes animated movies.

You can watch the trailer here:

Also, arrive early and catch Pixar's new short film Partly Cloudy, an ingenious delight about storks delivering babies and the clouds that magically create them, which is just further proof of Pixar's reign over the animated film industry.