The wizards at Pixar have done it again. Up, their 2009 entry for Best Animated Film of the Year, is, undoubtedly, going to be the Best Animated Film of the Year. Funny, emotional, exciting and intelligent, this one will once again leave the teams at DreamWorks Animation and Fox Studios drinking away their nights in disgust at the prospect that once again their work will be overshadowed by a superior product.
Up, from the director of Monsters, Inc. and the writers of Wall-E and Ratatouille, two of the best animated films ever, is about an old man named Carl Fredricksen, who, facing eviction from his quaint little home that is the last barrier to a major construction project, decides to set out on the adventure he always dreamed of: to go see Paradise Falls (a la Angel Falls) in South America. Of course, unwilling to let people tear down his house, he does this via an unconventional way by attaching thousands of helium balloons, uprooting his foundation and floating away, with the creature comforts of his own living room intact. Too bad the chubby, annoying Boy Scout is stuck on his deck.
After tampering with the artistic (Ratatouille) and the unique (Wall-E), it’s good to see Pixar go back to “basics” and deliver a quintessential children’s movie. Both Ratatouille and Wall-E were amazing, but skewed just a little older due to their originality and focus. Up, of course, shows the same ingenuity as Pixar’s other films, but has more of the stuff that little kids will eat up: funny birds, talking dogs, grumpy old men, chubby adventurers and evil villains. Parents don’t have to be worried about their little children getting bored, as I’m sure a few were during the first half of Wall-E.
The great thing is that the funny birds, talking dogs, grumpy old men, chubby adventurers and evil villains are a riot even for adults. Up is Pixar’s funniest movie, as the jokes, writing and direction are pitch-perfect nearly every time. Dug, the lovable talking dog (he can talk because he has a collar that allows him to), is one of the best and funniest characters to come along in a long time. The decision to give the evil Doberman Pinscher henchdog a malfunctioning squeaky voice had people laughing so hard I missed half of his dialogue. And then there are the little things, like the chubby Boy Scout unable to climb a rope or not sure whether he needs to dig a hole before or after taking a poo (“I figured it out! It’s before!”), that had people cracking up. Kids will love it, and adults will, too.
But other studios are able to make funny, adventure-filled movies, too. Kung Fu Panda comes to mind. The difference, though, is that Pixar is able to add an emotional, real-world layer that the other studios have yet, or simply chosen not, to do. Some sad things happen early on in the film, and Pixar is able to tug at the heartstrings just enough without bogging down their film with sentimentality. At Up’s core, there’s emotion, which is more than can be said about most other animated films. It’s just incredible that the company is able to do this time and time again with their products.
Up is a fascinating, entertaining, hilarious, intelligent, exciting adventure that will please anyone who steps inside the theater. This is their funniest movie to date, yet another entry that will leave their competitors green with envy. The short film at the beginning is also well worth it, too.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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