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003797Reviews & Counting
Up (SE)
BLU-RAY disk
11.17.2009 By: Jason Adams
Up (SE) order
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

Ed Asner
Jordan Nagai
Christopher Plummer


star Printer-Friendly version
After the passing of his beloved wife, geriatric Carl Fredricksen decides to fulfill her lifelong dream of exploring the world and settling down next to a South American waterfall. The old man simply ups and leaves, literally; with the help of a few thousand balloons, Carl turns his house in to a floating one-way ticket to jungle paradise. Soon he and young unwitting stowaway Russell are on a crazy adventure that involves talking dogs, exotic animals, villains straight out of “Heart of Darkness” and lots and lots of helium.
UP continues the flawless tradition of excellence you’ve come to expect from Pixar. And the comparisons to Miyazaki are definitely apt; UP is adult in its themes and storytelling but full of a sense of wonder and life that’s best described as childlike. From the tear inducing opening montage to the life affirming final shot, the studio completely nails this movie. Emotionally, technically, comedically, thematically – it’s all pretty much perfect.

Much has been said about the opening montage that sums up Carl’s life with his beloved Ellie…and it’s truly remarkable. Set to Michael Giacchino’s note perfect score, the “Married Life” sequence is one of the most moving and emotionally affective pieces of cinema in recent memory. Simple and natural, it gets the film going in a very surprising way.

It’s pretty much nonstop after that. There’s a fun adventure story, clever laughs, thrilling action, cute animals, funny fat kids, a little romance, and tons of creativity. Even if the film hadn’t of come together as well as it did, it would still get points for originality. It’s also one of the more emotional stories Pixar has ever told. Director Pete Docter did a great job with that in MONSTERS INC. (Anybody who isn’t affected by the last shot of that movie is dead inside. DEAD.) But UP is sentimental to an extreme, but in a relatable way that doesn’t make things too sappy. Anybody who’s ever been in love can find the emotional backbone to this movie, and even the biggest beer swilling, DIE HARD watching guy won’t be judged for shedding a tear. Along those lines, you can expect a few darker moments as well. (Blood and death in a Pixar movie?!) Nothing overly adult themed, but between the two, it might be tricky for young kids easily scared or saddened. But as Carl might say, kids should stop being such sissies.

As usual for Pixar, the visuals are amazing throughout, especially the fantastic character work. Carl (voiced by the great Ed Asner) is every grumpy old man you know, but in a lovable way that makes it okay when he’s sour to kids and dogs. The flick uses his elderly status and tools in great creative ways. On the opposite side is the young and naïve Russell, who manages to play the annoying sidekick kid without actually being annoying. His pudginess also probably helped. And you may fall in love with talking dog Dug (“Squirrel!”), but there’s a whole army of canines that bring in countless big laughs throughout.

Overall, I’d rate UP up there with the studio’s bests along with THE INCREDIBLES and TOY STORY. (At this point having done cars, robots, and old people, there’s pretty much nothing Pixar can’t handle.) I honestly find it hard to think of a negative thing to say about it. Bring on TOY STORY 3!
There’s a lot to enjoy on this 4 disc Blu-Ray combo pack. Two discs of bonus material include a fun commentary and close to an hour of behind the scenes documentaries that will show just why the Pixar approach makes them master storytellers. The package also comes with a copy of the film on DVD (with bonus features) and a digital copy.

Cinexplore with directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson: This feature is like a more robust commentary with the filmmakers, complete with little pop-up bubbles featuring various pictures, artwork and behind the scenes clips. The directors’ comments are engaging and you get a really good sense of how the story evolved over time.

“Partly Cloudy” short: Classic Pixar…a creative idea executed perfectly. A worthy follow up to last year’s “Presto.”

Dug’s Special Mission: This new prequel short film leads directly in to UP and features loveable Dug on his birthday trying to impress his “friends” with his hunting skills. A bit short, but still a nice addition to the story.

Adventure is Out There: The filmmakers talk about the influences of the South American setting and their trip to Venezuela for “research.” That included actually climbing to the top of an 8,000 foot tepui.

Alternate Scene: The Fate of Muntz: [SPOILER!] Everyone speaks about Muntz a villain and goes over the various ways in which they tried to kill him off. Get a look at some storyboarded alternate takes.

Alternate Scene: Married Life”: Take a look at some different incarnations of the opening montage, including a variation where Carl and Ellie punch each other through time. The extended version presented is cute, but the final version in the film works better.

Geriatric Hero: Everyone talks about the reasons and hardships of having a grumpy old man be the main character of your animated children’s film, and how exactly you go about animating and writing a relatable story around him.

Canine Companions: The goal was not to make your typical talking cartoon dogs, but real dogs that whose thought you can hear. Preparation included bringing in a dog behavioral specialist to help the animators.

Russell: Wilderness Explorer: Learn about everyone’s favorite kid sidekick and what the character means to the crew. Ironically, Russell was based on artist and Pixar employee Peter Sohn.

My Giant, Flightless Friend Kevin: The trials of creating a huge fantasy bird are detailed, including observing ostriches and putting together a ton of different animals.

Homemakers of Pixar: The crew discusses creating a house that could be picked up my 10,000 balloons. You get some knowledge of digital set decorating and what it takes to recreate your “grandparents’ house.”

Balloons and Flight: A shot bit on animating balloons and figuring out how to make the main premise work, as well as a bit on Muntz’s flying airship. (The final balloon count: 10,286.)

Composing for Characters: Michael Giacchino is one of the best composers working today; this year the man scored UP, STAR TREK, LAND OF THE LOST, and did all the music for “Lost.” Here he talks about his work with Pixar, including how a specific chord became the basis for the entire movie.

There’s also a Promo Montage, a Guardiaan Badge Game (where Russell teaches kids geography), Trailers and exclusive BD Live features.
I don’t know why we should be surprised anymore; Pixar has proven countless times that they’re the masters when it comes to telling stories in an animated format. And UP is another on a long list of winners, with a funny, emotional and unique adventure that’s surely one of the year’s best. This Blu Ray has a ton of worthy features to give you a fun background on the film and round out the UP experience.

Extra Tidbit: This is maybe the saddest thing ever.
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