Friday, February 05, 2010
MOVIE REVIEW: Up
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-Ray
Up is, at its base, the story of the friendship between an elderly man and a young boy. There's much more to it than that, of course. There's a house that flies because it's attached to balloons, there are exotic locales and species, there is intrigue, there is comedy and tragedy, but to me, the unlikely kinship is the most important part of the tale. Once again, Pixar has taken a far-fetched tale and made us not only believe, but relate.
Up tells the story of Carl Fredricksen, an elderly widower in danger of losing his house, and Russell, a well-meaning, if occasionally annoying, boy scout desperate to earn a few merit badges. Carl attempts to escape being sent to the old-folks' home by attaching a bushell of balloons (20,622 balloons actually, according to the feature commentary) to his house and flying away. Unbeknownst to him, however, Carl has an unwitting stowaway in Russell, who was standing on his porch during liftoff. Though Carl initially fantasizes about throwing Russell out the window, he eventually takes on a protective role and the two have a great camaradarie throughout most of the film.
Up may be the best Pixar film yet. While WALL·E made us empathize with a robot who spoke only 2 words and Finding Nemo made us feel for a fish, Up packs the greatest emotional punch of any of Pixar's increasingly impressive lineup of features. If the first 10 minutes of this film DOESN'T make you cry, or at least get a little teary-eyed, you may want to check your pulse to make sure you're still alive.
I'm not going to lie to you; the other films nominated for Best Animated Feature are going to have to get up pretty early in the morning if they think they can have a chance at beating Up. Already the odds-on favorite to win in this category, Up made many critics' top ten lists as the best of 2009, and the fact that it's nominated outside the animated category as well makes it all but certain to win.
The screenplay is also nominated, and I think watching the film will make it clear why. The story is so inventive and engaging that you occasionally forget that the characters are not real. As for the nominated score, Pixar veteran Michael Giacchino has done a beautiful job making the music seamlessly complement the story without distracting from it at all.
Though unlikely to score a win in the Best Picture category, just being nominated with the big boys is, in this case, a huge honor. Up is only the second animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture. The first, Beauty and the Beast, lost in 1991 to The Silence of the Lambs.
In conclusion, anyone who hasn't seen this film yet (are there still people who haven't seen it?) should drop what they are doing and go rent a copy. Better yet, buy one, as this film only gets better with repeat viewings.