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Disney-Pixar's Up

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

HARD to believe but Pixar continue to surpass even their own high standards with Up, a poignant yet uplifting family movie that has something for every age.

Admittedly, at first glance 78-year-old curmudgeon Carl Fredricksen may seem like an odd choice for a Disney-Pixar hero. But in the hands of co-directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson he’s one of the most richly rewarding characters of the year.

His story, too, will resonate with viewers on many levels… tapping into the innocence and adventure of youth as well as the happiness and regret that comes with old age.

The story is disarmingly simple. As a young boy, Carl dreams of emulating the wild adventures of maverick explorer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer)… a dream shared by fellow dreamer Ellie.

As a result, Carl and Ellie fall in love and, once adults, get married with the ambition of one day following Muntz’s trail to the spectacular Paradise Falls in South America.

But life soon takes over and as they happily tackle its many obstacles they eventually grow old and Ellie passes away, leaving Carl (now voiced by Ed Asner) alone and facing eviction.

Determined to realise his promise to his late wife, however, Carl straps a thousand balloons to his home and heads off to South America, unwittingly taking intrepid young scout Russell (Jordan Nagai) along for the ride…

From the outset, Up holds you in its magical grasp and refuses to let go. It’s set-up, in particular, offers one of the most striking sequences of all-time as Docter and Peterson take us through Carl and Ellie’s life via a montage that’s guaranteed to have you in floods of tears.

Thereafter, Carl’s adventure becomes utterly enthralling, while his inevitable bonding with the over-eager Russell is nicely developed without ever becoming too mawkish.

Their subsequent adventures take in talking dogs, over-sized birds and, eventually, an encounter with Muntz that offer a keen mix of humour and excitement – but never at the expense of the emotional journey underpinning Carl’s quest.

Ellie’s presence and pride of place in his life is never forgotten and there’s at least one more tear-jerking moment waiting to catch you off-guard, as Carl gets to grips with his unlikely adventurer status and resolves to press on with this new stage in his life.

As they did with last year’s Wall-E, Pixar mix happiness and poignancy to effortless effect. Up is, in many ways, one of the most sad blockbusters you’re like to see; yet it’s power to uplift and enrich the soul are just as strong.

Hence, from wiping away the tears one moment, you’ll be heartily laughing the next while reminiscing on the many resonant themes that the film raises.

Up is another superlative addition to the Pixar CV, which already boasts the likes of Toy Story, Ratatouille and Wall-E among their timeless collection.

It once again raises the bar in what can be achieved in animation and, perhaps even more crucially, in cinema as a whole. The term genius has seldom seemed so inadequate for describing just how amazing these creators are.

Certificate: U
Running time: 102mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 15, 2010