- Released Internationally on 28/05/09
- Released in Malta by KRS on 21/10/09
Showing in Real3D at Empire Cinemas, Buġibba and in 2D everywhere else
In a nutshell
When was the last time you saw an adventure film who's hero had dentures, a creaky back and used a walking frame? No, not Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I mean a proper senior citizen who won't shirk away from using his dentures in combat if the need arises. And this wonderful vintage hero is only one of the many great, original joys of Pixar and Disney's latest offering.
We first meet Carl when he's a wide-eyed young boy who thrives on adventure stories and dreams of the wilderness, with a burning desire to emulate his hero, the great explorer Charles Muntz. After this brief introduction we're treated to possibly the highlight of the film - a simple but elegant montage of Carl's life, as he grows from strapping young man to shuffling old fellow. The montage could have been a short film of its own - it's beautifully done. Without needing any words, the director helps us fall in love with this little old man in just a few minutes, as we skip through his balloon-man job, penniless but lovely marriage, touching married life, and all that follows. As so often happens, his childhood dreams get shelved in favour of more practical projects that arise, and Carl's dreams of exotic travel never materialise.
Sticking to his old ways, Carl fights off developers to keep his rickety old house intact, and refuses to budge. He may not be a spring chicken, but like a smaller version of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, he laughs off any suggestions of retirement homes. But when he can't hold out any longer, his old promise to visit Angel Falls in Venezuela stirs him up and he does the unthinkable. Add hundreds of helium balloons to a tiny wooden house and you have a good old-fashioned fairytale on your hands, kept reasonably believable by some deft storytelling and animation. This is one of the joys of Pixar and Disney films - they're not afraid to make a film about an old man steering a floating house, and they even manage to make it warm, moving and important.
The trip is exciting enough (as one would expect, given the mode of transport) but once he gets to South America the real peril starts. In true adventure-story tradition, the eclectic mix of sidekicks helps lift the story and make the protagonist a man who faces decisions and changes over the course of the story. With him from takeoff is the wonderful Russell, a not-too-bright but completely genuine budding boy scout, who's sense of pride and exhilaration probably reminds Carl of a younger him. The relationship between the two burgeons as expected, but the predictability doesn't detract anything from the chemistry these two animated characters manage to show. Also on board, at first quite reluctantly, are Kevin, an inappropriately-named designer bird in need of assistance, and Dug, a hilariously dim dog who talks thanks to a device similar to the monkey's one in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Between moving reminders of age's merciless progress, and endless fine humour, there's an action adventure worthy of any blockbuster film, with breathtaking locations, fancy gadgets and an unstable nemesis who might have spent too much time away from polite society. From high-flying hand-to-hand combat aboard zeppelins, to authentic dogfights in the skies, this film propels the ageing Carl where Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker and James Bond have gone before. But most importantly the film never takes itself too seriously, whilst on the other hand never seeming held back by the fact that it's an animated film.
Many Pixar regulars contributed to making this another star entry in the Pixar/Disney collection. Pete Docter, who directed Monsters Inc. and co-wrote Toy Story and WALL-E, wrote and directed this time around. John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, who brought us A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo respectively, are the producers. Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, The Insider) provides the menacing voice of Muntz, whilst voice actor Ed Asner is the gruff voice of Carl. Composer Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) conjures up a wonderfully waltzy main theme that can be moulded to suit the sentimental early scenes, as well as serve as a heroic fanfare to complement the action later on.
In the end
I've said it before and I predict I'll be saying it in future - Pixar and Disney have done it again. As they've been doing on a yearly basis since Toy Story, they've released yet another spectacular film which isn't only one of the best animated films of the year, but one of the best films in any genre. I wouldn’t say that Up is as much of a masterpiece as Finding Nemo and WALL-E, but it could partly be due to my getting used to their standards of excellence. It's hardly surprising any more that the animation and effects are beautifully done, but once again they've written a heart-warming story that is fresh, moving, and hugely entertaining.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/up/ (High-Res QuickTime)