Tuesday, December 12

Movie Review: Up (2009)

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“Up” is a family film that doesn’t pander. The audience’s suspension of disbelief especially for some of its preposterous elements never insists itself as a negative issue. In fact, the cleverness and originality the film exudes through it becomes considerably boundless. Highly supported by visual wonder and worthwhile story investment, the theme of this exquisitely cinematic work tweaks the common elements of a grownup tale and rejuvenates the storytelling with much spark and pop.

As an emotional and heartfelt story with various levels of relationships and sense of belongingness, this high-altitude exploration about love and loss and letting go makes a beautifully balanced effort – propelling the viewers up, up and away with its colorful balloons of cinematic adventure.

From belly-laugh humor to tear-in-the-eye despair, it never becomes anything less than incredibly touching and entertaining. Alternately funny and touching, and exciting often all at once, this tale about unfulfilled dreams and fulfilling promises is punctuated by gentle whimsy and tender human values. Through its intimate character study about rediscovering the soul, or surviving the worst and making the most of it, the film’s creative synergy of sharp, funny, and tear-jerking elements delivers both a thrillingly fantastic adventure and a devastatingly poignant piece of realism.

What makes “Up” more special is how its animation efforts are utilized for maximum value. It combines the basic filmmaking requirement of imaginative and sincere storytelling with dazzling and dreamlike visuals on a level that can work best on animated films – creating an experience that is a special characteristic of animation – at once utterly convincing and completely impossible, but all in all, lovingly acceptable for its kind of medium.

This swashbuckling romp starts slow and classy. Then it picks up helium and soars into a continent-hopping adventure and an understated, nuanced psychodrama with an end as inspiring as its title. For children, it’s an adventure movie; for adults, it’s an adventure on a whole different level. “Up” is a breezy kid’s fun yarn embedded in a sentimental grownup tale with serious consideration on love, death, and lives left behind. The “visual wow factor” can resonate more powerfully to the kids while the amusing brilliance as a sweet, gentle, and imaginative tale about grief and regret, purposes lost and rediscovered can resound more to the adults.

The opening sequence sits in silence, telling the story of young Carl and Ellie filled with emotions and alleviated by Michael Giacchino’s magnificent music transporting the viewers to a make-believe place. Tears fall at the end of this beginning to cast a spell over the willing audience. It hits the right notes as the musical score becomes practically a character in the film itself. The contemplative montage taking Carl from childhood to widowhood truly makes imaginations take flight. Director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson, along with all the talented people from Pixar, create such a palpable story while maintaining itself as a piece of expertly-rendered and artful type of entertainment.

Colors match the emotions seen on screen. Shapes and sizes in every frame promote such valuable storytelling subtexts like: the character design of Carl being very edgy while the designs of Ellie and Russel being full of curves.

The various characters balance the thrills and tenderness to make a truly beautiful and compelling work. The gruffy old widower Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) ties thousands of balloons to his home and sets out to fulfill the lifelong dream initiated by his already departed wife Ellie (with the young Ellie heard in the film voiced by Elie Docter) to see the wilds of South America. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, becomes a stow away on the trip. And as he finds himself reluctantly sharing his ride with the short-attention-spanned kid, he embraces the jungle adventure with more and more characters coming their way including the colorful, sweet-toothed bird Kevin, the talking dog Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson), and his childhood idol, the adventurer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer) with his pack of dogs led by Alpha (voiced by Bob Peterson).

“Up” has a genuine warmth of a true classic. It orchestrates itself into one truly unforgettable piece of animated film for all ages.

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