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Jim "Good Old JR" Rutkowski & Larry "Bocepheus" Evans
Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen, Bob Peterson
Starring the Voices of:
Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer
Length:   89 minutes
Released:   052909
PG for some peril and action
BO: "The humor is broad enough so that you don’t have to explain the jokes to your kids and can laugh at them as well."
JR: "Pixar has become, not just the studio that produces the finest animated films of this era, but a studio that film after film is creating great cinema." 
Movie Review by: Jim "Good Old JR" Rutkowski
stars out of 4)
Again. Another year. Another Pixar film. Another review that begins by saying that the latest offering from the premiere purveyors of excellence is the best movie of the year thus far. It’s no longer a novelty how Pixar keeps making great movies. “Up” is their tenth feature film, and by now we must admit that their perfect-thousand batting average is no longer a pleasant surprise. It’s an expected gold standard.

What is a surprise - a wonderful, lovely, splendid surprise - is how the studio is taking chances with their storytelling. After a string of films that used premises you could also get from other studios (albeit with much, much greater results; imagine DreamWorks handling a talking toys movie), Pixar’s top players are now stretching their imaginations in unexpected directions, pulling us along for the ride with adventures featuring rodent chefs and Broadway-loving robots and now, with “Up,” a 78-year-old retired balloon salesman who flies his house to South America.

It’s a breathtaking sight. Even if you’ve seen the commercials, you’ll still find a gentle awe in watching Carl Frederickson (voiced by Ed Asner) float away in his house, above the city that outgrew him, through the clouds, toward his childhood dream. As flights of fancy go, this one’s a pip.

Before he flies away, though, we must know why he’s going. The film - directed by Peter Docter (who directed “Monster’s Inc.” and co-wrote “WALL-E”), co-directed by Bob Peterson (he co-wrote “Finding Nemo”), and scripted by both - opens with Carl as a quiet kid obsessed with grand adventure, especially the newsreel exploits of national hero Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Young Carl comes across chatty Ellie (Elie Docter), who also dreams of one day flying off to the mysterious Paradise Falls, where Muntz said he once found strange prehistoric beasts.

The prologue isn’t just quickie backstory; it’s key in showing us how shy, quiet Carl found escape - and someone to love. What follows is a heartbreaking montage - a Chaplinesque masterpiece of wordless, economic storytelling - of Carl and Ellie growing old together, sharing their dream of Paradise Falls but always having to back away from it whenever real life struck, all those medical bills and home repairs and making do with the small things. Peterson refuses to shy away from grown-up drama, and the tragedies of the Fredricksens’ lives will resonate more with parents than with their kids (but who said cartoons are just for the kids? An animated film with a scene depicting a devastating miscarriage is a first). The marvel is in how quickly the film grabs us, and how little it does to tell us everything we need to know. Carl dreams of escape now not just to fulfill his own childhood dream, but to remain connected to his now-departed Ellie. Now is the time for him to fulfill his promise to her. It’s sweeter and kinder and more emotional than any other studio could make it.

And then comes the adventure, and the comedy, as Carl makes his great escape. The first trouble they encounter is with Russell (Jordan Nagai), the wilderness scout who found himself stuck under the porch during liftoff; it creates a terrific odd couple comedy duo, the motormouth kid and the grumpy old man. The second bit of trouble is when they land off course and must make the rest of the trek on foot; I think of the two hiking along, tethered to a floating house, and oh, how I smile. The third element is the giant bird and the talking dog.

The talking dog is Dug, voiced by Peterson in a way I’d like to think all dogs would talk if they could. He’s happy and friendly and not too bright, and how can you resist a mutt that says “I have just met you and I love you!”? That, in eight short words, is a dog.

Dug is one of a pack of dogs fitted with a translator collar, an invention of... well, that would be telling, now, wouldn’t it? Needless to say, Dug is our guide, taking us from the very funny, very smart second act to the very thrilling, very smart third act, build entirely around old school adventure, the kind with jungles and blimps and men of daring-do, with Carl doing must of the daring, much to his surprise but not ours.

It is, it should go without saying, all beautifully animated and lushly produced. But anyone can do beautiful and lush. What makes “Up” so very special is how it insists on tying everything into character. This may be a movie that climaxes with a fight atop a zeppelin, but every move the story takes is in the service of Carl and Russell as authentic people. (Yes, you can have flying houses and talking dogs and still tell a story about authentic people.) Russell’s home life isn’t too great; the kid needs a Carl in his life. Carl, meanwhile, needs to learn that his dreams might not have been as dashed as he thought, that his adventure may have simply taken a different road, but first, can he let go of his regrets? And what of... ah, but again, that would be telling.

It’s all a fantastic experience the way only Pixar could make it, a touching, intelligent story punctuated with gentle whimsy and bold excitement, a sort of all-in-one adventure. It is, of course, gorgeously animated and expertly produced, but the heart of the matter is the story, which is the reason they invented words like “delight.” The studio’s tenth project is as utterly captivating as its first. And second. And third. And fourth...

Pixar has become, not just the studio that produces the finest animated films of this era, but a studio that film after film is creating great cinema.

Movie Review by: Larry "Bocepheus" Evans
stars out of 4)
The fine folks at Pixar have done it again with the entertaining and sometimes poignant tale in Up. The main character of the animated film is balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who is voiced by Lou Grant himself Ed Asner. Carl is a widower trying to get over the death of his wife Ellie (voiced by Doctor’s wife). We meet the two as kids who are fans of famous explorer Charles Muntz, who is voiced by Christopher Plummer. Ellie is excitable and animated while Carl is quiet and reserved so the duo are perfectly matched. The relationship between the two is shown in a marvelous silent segment that leaves us with Carl alone in his house surrounded by massive development. His quiet existence is almost gone and suddenly there is a knock on his door by Russell (Nagai), a scout trying to gain his last merit badge by helping the elderly. Russell is persistent and extremely eager so Carl gives him a task. Soon after something horrible happens and Carl’s life as he knows it is about to change and in a bravura sequence it does. He has attached hundreds of helium balloons to his house and at the right moment he sets the house free to search for adventure only to discover-Russell on his porch begging to be let in.

Once the two are safe in the house we learn that Carl wants to do something that he and Ellie had always planned-finish the expedition of Muntz, who has left in shame to find something he claims exists but cannot really prove. The two eventually find what they are looking for and in doing so also find a strange, large and colorful bird that Russell names Kevin. Kevin is goofy enough looking to entertain kids and his interaction between the humans who are suddenly in his midst is charming as well as entertaining. The fun gets even sillier when the trio encounter Dug (voiced by co-director Peterson), a dog who can also talk since his master has given him a collar that allows him to communicate. Dug and the rest of his canine friends (one voiced by Delroy Lindo) have been sent out to find Kevin by his master, the now elderly Muntz.

Eventually the group encounters Muntz and from there the film turns a bit more serious since from the looks of him Muntz isn’t exactly a nice guy. Plummer’s voice goes from silky smooth to dripping venom during the course of dinner and Asner does a fine job with his voice showing us that he understands that his idol isn’t the person he expected. From this point on the film follows the standard adventure format that results in a happy ending all around.

Up is basically a kid’s film but has enough in it to appeal to adults as well. The humor is broad enough so that you don’t have to explain the jokes to your kids and can laugh at them as well. During the course of the film we see a man confront his own mortality while another seeks to redeem himself from being called a fraud. The ending of the film is perfect save for one note involving Russell that is set up but never happens. The credits sequence is very well done and at the end of the film you look forward to seeing what the folks at Pixar are going to dazzle us with next.

UP © Pixar/Walt Disney
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2009 Alternate Reality, Inc.



"...a never-ending series of visual astonishments are nothing less than awe-inspiring."  (JR)


"Cars may cross the finish line ahead of any of 2006's other animated films, it's several laps behind its Pixar siblings."  (JR)


"Pixar has done it again, and, in the process, managed to salvage Disney's reputation - at least for a little longer."  (JR)