Movie Review: Disney/Pixar "UP"

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Has Pixar gone 10 for 10?  Disney / Pixar’s UP is the studios 10th and first 3D film.  There has been plenty of hype for this new film, and I myself was one that got into that hype. I have watched most of the online featurette’s, “UPisodes” and clips. Fortunately, I did not watch all of them to save some of the surprises the movie may have.  I’m very happy to say that the hype lived up to my expectations.

Disney / Pixar’s UP is about a grouchy old man, Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), who has made a promise to his late wife that they would go on an adventure to visit South America. It was a promise he held since childhood.  After Carl loses his wife Ellie, he realizes it’s now or never to fulfill his promise.

Carl’s house, which once sat in the middle of a typical middle-class American street, now is in the middle of a hustle and bustle construction site with sky scrapers and new developments on all sides.  The old man’s house is on the verge of being bought out by a developer so he can demolish it for his plans of the area.  Fredricksen realizes that he must save his house and take it with him on his adventure. His plan seems to take off without a hitch until he finds out that a local boy scout is trapped aboard his flying house.  Russell (Jordan Nagai) is an 8-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer that only wants to earn his last badge of assiting an elder.  This is where all the comical antics derive from when Carl must now take on this adventure with one more than expected.

The audience will soon notice some of the heavy subject matters within this film. The main reason why Russell wants to earn his last badge is so that he can be honored the Sr. Wilderness Explorer badge by his father that is not around much.  This subject matter may hold a little too close to some of the children in the audience. There are many other subject matters toward the start of the movie like a baby complication and death that may need some explanation.  Much of the movie holds a dark undertone because of the side plots, but makes up for it in humor. No doubt these characters deliver a great amount of comical relief, but the sad parts may outweigh them. I do appreciate the more complex story and underlining the film has than say Cars did, but am just a little worried the effect it may have on children. You’ve been warned.

This being Pixar’s 10th film makes it a perfect time to debut their first 3D film even though they are a little behind the times.  By being a little late Pixar really got a chance to perfect this newer trend.  The scenes have tons of depth and are just gorgeous, which is displayed in Disney Digital 3D.  “We look at 3D as another crayon in our crayon box.” Director/Writer of Up Peter Docter stated. This is one aspect I truly love about Pixar. The studio has always been big on creating films strong on story with the technology used playing just as the medium to display that story unless it could help contribute.  Therefore Pixar never wants to have the technology distract from the movie.  In UP, Docter used 3D technology to help the movie showcase different moods the audience should feel between different scenes. “For example, at the beginning of the film, Carl is stuck in his ways and he’s living in this little house,” Docter explained. “We wanted it to feel claustrophobic so we flattened everything – we made it purposely less deep. Contrast that later when he gets to South America. We wanted this expansiveness – we wanted you to feel the wind in your face, so we really pushed depth there.” The use of 3D changes the mood for many of the scenes and helps show some of the beautiful locations within the film. Instead of using the effect as a gimmick, it is used as another visual cue.

Another aspect of this Disney / Pixar film is uniqueness in look and style.  I have noticed that all of Pixar films differ in style from the backgrounds to the characters in the movie. “We wanted UP to have a distinct look all its own and to be a departure from other Pixar films,” Producer Jonas Rivera stated. “We were trying to reach back and connect to the great Disney films that we grew up with, like ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Cinderella’, and the great sense of style and caricature that they had.”

One sense of style the audience may notice is the more ‘animated’ the characters look compared to the realism of the wild scenery they are set. For instance, there are scenes toward the beginning of the film where characters are animated like our favorite slap-stick 2D animated counterparts. Ricky Nierva, Production Designer, stated that he coined the term ‘simplexity’ for the style he wanted. Basically they wanted to remove some of the detail without making the CGI look cheap. The reason behind this was to caricature the humans while still keeping them relatable. This sense of style adds to the suspension of disbelief one must have to believe what’s happening in the film.  One thing about the film that I was having a hard time swallowing was the unbelievable situations. Okay, I bought the fact that a house flies to an exotic destination in South America via helium balloons tied to the fireplace, but I am not too sure I could believe some of the crazy action sequences.  I especially had an issue in the scenes with the dogs in airplanes later in the film.  I’ll hold off in order to not spoil anything, but there were quite a few stretches even in the world the film created.

UP is definitely the best family movie I have seen in awhile. I noticed myself laughing out loud a lot and even feeling like a kid again. It brought back quite a few memories of childhood and made me miss those good times had. More importantly, it showed me that I should always keep some adventure in my life no matter how old I am. After all, an elderly man is our action hero of the film.

If you are looking for a movie emotion invoking with humor, sadness, action, and adventure, then this is the film you should look at. It definitely has those adult themes family movies have been containing within the past decade and I actually took something away from it. That’s what we are all after anyway, right?


Partly Cloudy (Pixar Short):
Quick and to the point, Disney / Pixar’s newest short had some of the best comical moments compared to all of their past shorts. It is very touching and a perfect opening to UP. This is probably my favorite short from Pixar and really leaves you with an “awe” moment. However, this is another one that might need some parental guidance. Do your kids know where babies come from?

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