Film review: Up (2009).

3 Sep

Up is the latest feature film from Pixar Studios, directed by Pete Docter (Monster’s Inc) and Bob Peterson (a Pixar stalwart). It tells the whimsical tale of Carl, a cranky, recently-widowed, balloon salesman who escapes the clutches of a dreaded retirement home by tying a million colourful balloons to his house and sailing away to Paradise Falls. But, oh no! 8 year old, Russell has come along for the adventure and I don’t think Carl is too pleased! Russell is a happy-go-lucky, bumbling child on a mission to assist Carl wherever he can, because Russell is an earnest Wilderness Explorer and that’s what they do (think Boy Scouts… shudder).

And so begins an unlikely adventure shared by two unlikely people.

The film opens some seventy years earlier with Carl running around the suburban playground dreaming of being an explorer and meeting his future wife, the adventurous Ellie. A memorable (though slightly squeamish) life-montage ensues of Carl and Ellie sharing those archetypal special moments together, ending with Ellie’s expiration. We see the transformation of Carl – from a naive, pudgey faced boy to a frumpled, bitter, square-headed old man – providing us with a revealing contrast to young Russell.

As the film carries on with all it’s cute or scary little characters and beautiful animation, the underlying emotions of Carl and Russell become clearer. We begin to understand why Russell so desperately wants to graduate to Senior Wilderness Explorer, and we go on a journey with Carl to discover that reaching Paradise Falls is not the only thing that matters. However, writer and director Pete Docter chose not to overload us with this information at the start, preferring to ascribe to Simplexity. [Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Simplexity before – it didn’t exist until Pete Docter coined it during the making of this film: “Simplexity, the art of simplifying an image down to its essence”.]

And it worked… sort of.

I was very happy to connect with Carl and Russell, despite both of them being a bit irritating at times. Unlike Pixar’s last film, Wall-E, in which the robots were difficult to befriend and the humans were devoid of any admirable traits, Up goes back to the days of Monster’s Inc and The Incredibles where the characters you meet are instantly recognisable and generally likeable. I succumbed to the cutey-shakes numerous times, I stared disbelievingly at the animation, and the colours that filtered through the balloons as it flew through the city were stunning. Whilst Up is by no means the best in the best Pixar box, it’s still worth a watch.

Note: Up contains scenes of a severe tropical storm. I attended this film with two friends and we three as meteorologists agreed that the storm was accurately represented. However, there was a neglect of turbulence from the Zeppelin’s propellers, identified by a lack of erratic movement from the house-balloon in its lee.

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