To say that Pixar has done it again is a massive understatement and oft-used cliché, but it couldn’t be any closer to the truth. The 10th film from the hit-making studio is just as incredible and tear-inducing as its previous entries and will be cherished as such for years to come.
As a boy, Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner) wanted nothing more than to live a life of adventure, like his on-screen hero Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Carl soon stumbles upon Ellie, a girl with similar desires and aspirations. Carl and Ellie develop a friendship that ultimately turns into a relationship. With dreams of traveling to South America, the two build a life together. As years go by, though, their dreams are deterred as the realities of life set them back time and again. Carl receives the ultimate setback when his beloved wife dies and he is left alone. Determined to fulfill his and his wife’s dream, Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house which lifts it off the ground and sails away. What Carl doesn’t know is that Russell (Jordan Nagai), a plucky, rotund boy scout, has accidentally come with him. Together, these two share an adventure bigger than either of them could have imagined.
The voice work in this film is pitch-perfect. Everything from Carl and Russell to the “talking dogs” is done splendidly and with the perfect amount of humor. Nagai’s portrayal of Russell is the epitome of a boy scout and nearly everything he says has a comedic punch to it, even if it’s not necessarily supposed to. This may be the first Pixar film where the reason the characters are so lovable is not necessarily because of their design, but the voice talent.
The animation is once again beautiful and awe-inspiring. Seeing thousands of balloons fly through the sky is not only a testament to Pixar’s attention to detail but also their ability to create images that are long-lasting in one’s memory. The supporting characters are all beautifully designed, as well. Everything from Kevin, the rare, exotic bird to Dug (the dog) and his pack trying to hunt Kevin down is done meticulously and stunningly.
There is a touch of darkness to “Up,” putting it on par with “The Incredibles” when it comes to real-life violence. I believe this may be the first film Pixar in which where we are actually shown blood, which comes about through the actions of the main protagonist, giving the film a realistic viewpoint on any violence that may happen. Even the film’s antagonist, who is at first seen as a hero of Carl’s, is soon revealed to be nothing more than an old man bent on keeping up with the past, which parallels Carl’s story quite nicely.
While this is a nearly perfect film, there are just a few minor flaws. The pacing of “Up” is indeed a bit fast and because of this the time that is given introducing Carl and Ellie as kids and seeing them grow up goes by quickly and the emotional punch Ellie’s death is supposed to provide feels a bit deflated. It’s still sad and our sympathies are with Carl but it’s hard to really get too attached when in one scene they’re kids and the next scene they’re married.
When it comes down to it, “Up” is more about the adventures we encounter simply living life than it is the adventures we seek out. For in the most ordinary of situations, the most mundane of circumstances, there is always something exciting and thrilling waiting for the kid in us to take hold of and run away with. Sometimes, the only place you have to look is up.