Up 3D *****
Up 2D *****
2009 has been another huge year for computer animation, with most of the major animation studios having adopted 3D into the production and exhibition of their movies. But what everyone has really been waiting for is the release of Pixar’s first 3D movie (well not those of you in America who had this film back in May but us unlucky folk here in the UK) and now that wait is over with the long awaited release of Up, Pixar’s tenth feature length movie, which is already being touted by many as their best film yet. And given the outstanding quality of last year’s Wall-E, not to mention their consistent track record of excellence prior to that, this is certainly something to really recommend it. As with many Pixar the concept of Up is not one that seems obvious for a family animation – after all, a septuagenarian is not the typical focus of family flicks – but rather than being a fault this is once again a major strength in the film’s favour as everything points to yet another truly original piece of family fare from the animation studio that just keeps on wowing audiences the world over. Suffice to say that even without seeing the film I already knew exactly what I was going to rate Up so as far as writing this review is concerned seeing the film really was just a formality. Nonetheless, it was one thoroughly enjoyable formality.
Retired, widowed and grouchy, Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner) is a 78 year old ex-balloon salesman being forced to vacate the house he shared with his late wife. But rather than go quietly into a rest home, Carl plans to embark on a trip to South America, to a place where he always dreamed of visiting – Paradise Falls. And he plans to do this without even leaving his own front room! After Carl ties thousands of balloons to the roof, his house has lift-off and starts floating towards its destination. He’s not alone however, as over-eager Junior Wilderness Explorer, Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), has inadvertently come along for the ride, much to Carl’s annoyance. But before long they’re sharing the adventure of a lifetime as they meet a talking dog (voiced by Bob Peterson), discover a rare flightless bird, called Kevin, and ward off dangerous enemy Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer). Now all they have to do is find their way back home.
In the grand tradition of Pixar movies it was a given right from the moment it was first announced that Up would be another animation masterpiece from the masters of computer animation and the film doesn’t disappoint on any level. The animation lives up the high standard of excellence that we have come to expect from Pixar – a standard that is constantly soaring higher and higher – with spectacularly beautiful and life-like landscapes, adorable animals and brilliantly realized human characters – a major achievement considering that people can be notoriously difficult to animate well. And everything is so much better with the addition of the 3D, which is truly incredible, making an already amazing movie even more awe inspiring and showing that Pixar really know how to do 3D as well as 2D animation. The 3D doesn’t come out of the screen at any point, thus avoiding falling into gimmick territory, but it does make the entire experience much more realistic and immersive, so much so that you will really feel as if you are actually at Paradise Falls with Carl and Russell rather than just watching them on a screen. However, while the animation and 3D quality is undisputedly amazing, just like all Pixar movies what really makes the film so special is the storyline and the humour. The film provides laughs a plenty and they always come from genuinely heartfelt situations rather than gags or in-jokes – the kind of humour present in many other recent animated features. As we have come to expect this is a film that will be loved by moviegoers of all ages, from 5 to 105, and the story this time is one of Pixar’s most original and beautiful to date. Starting with a sweet, touching and moving montage which charts Carl from his childhood fantasy to become like childhood hero Charles Muntz through his first encounter with love of his life Ellie and their marriage followed by their life together and culminating in her tragic death (a scene which will bring tears to your eyes), the story is thoroughly engaging throughout, never letting up even for a second and the script, written by directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, provides a perfect balance that amuses, thrills (thanks to some excellent action adventure sequences) and moves you in a way that feels totally natural. Put simply, the mixture is one that works and it is hard not to fall in love with the charming tale and the characters who are living it. This is also helped by excellent voice work from the entire cast who, unlike quite a few other animated movies, are not big name stars per se but rather people who really do their characters justice, creating individuals that truly come to life and that we as viewers can really invest our emotions in. So, overall, Up is a film that will make you laugh, make you cry, put a twinkle in your eye and will you send your enjoyment level right up to the sky. And it is undoubtedly one of Pixar’s finest movies to date. Whether it is their best is entirely for you to decide (personally Wall-E is still number one) but regardless this is another true animation masterpiece and it doesn’t matter whether you see it in 3D or just in 2D, it is a masterpiece either way.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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