‘UP’ Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated June 1st, 2009 at 8:33 am,

Short Version: UP is arguably Pixar’s finest achievement to date, and is surprisingly mature (and moving) in its subject matter. Oh, and the 3D visuals are pretty awesome too.

up review UP Review

Screen Rant Reviews Pixar's UP (in digital 3D)

There’s nothing better than an easy review: Pixar’s latest summer offering, UP, is a fantastic film. Simply fantastic. Seriously, if Ratatouille and Wall-E deserved to be in the running for Best Picture of the Year (as many said they did at the times of their releases) then UP certainly does.

It’s that good.

The film – which was written by Bob Peterson (Finding Nemo, Ratatouille) and directed by Peter Docter (Monsters, Inc.) – delivers all the things we’ve come to expect from a Pixar animated feature: gorgeous visuals, a strong story rife with moral lessons and (gasp) good character development; humor both low-brow (for the kids) and high-brow (for the grownups), with strokes of bold wit and a dash of sagely wisdom for good measure.

And yet, UP also delivers something quite unexpected: Pixar’s most adult-oriented story yet, slyly disguised in a fantastic adventure tale.

UP tells the life story of Carl Fredricksen (the unmistakable voice of Ed Asner), a shy little boy who grows up in (1930s?) America, an era in which people pack into movie theaters to watch news reels about adventurous explorers like Charles Muntz, who travels the world on one epic quest after the next.

Young Carl Fredricksen idolizes Muntz: He spends his lonely days roaming his neighborhood pretending to be Muntz until one day he runs into Ellie, an energetic and fearless young girl (everything Carl is not) who idolizes Charles Muntz just as much as Carl does. Ellie and Carl cross their hearts then and there and swear to be great adventurers like Charles Muntz, and with that oath, theirs is a match made in heaven.

After that fateful first encounter, we get a truly beautiful montage of Carl and Ellie’s life-long romance. We see the young kids grow into a teenage couple; see them get married and buy a house, working day jobs (balloon vendor) while saving up for the kind of adventures they fantasized about as kids. We watch the couple deal with the ups and downs, joys and tragedies of life; and gradually we watch them grow into old age, Ellie’s “My Adventures” scrapbook still unfilled, even as her time on Earth ends.

With Ellie gone, Carl becomes a disgruntled old man desperately trying to hold on to a house, heirlooms and a lost-love he cherishes. A physical confrontation with neighborhood developers leads to Carl being forced into a retirement home for the rest of his days – but before the old man will give in he decides to honor the oath he and Ellie swore as kids and take one last shot at adventure! Carl ties an impossible number of balloons to his house (working a balloon cart at the zoo was his job for many years), rigs a steering system and UP he goes!

pixar up frame11 UP Review

But there’s a stowaway on board: a young boy scout-type named Russell (Jordan Nagai), who is desparately trying to earn his last merit badge assisting the elderly, for personal reasons that are as moving as a they are heartbreakingly naive. From that point on, the story mainly focuses on Carl trying to find room in his broken heart for love and friendship again, with Russell acting as his primary foil and simultaneous source of inspiration. Russell is also handy for providing the comedic relief the kids will get.

Of course there’s a whole flying to South America, evil nemesis (Christopher Plummer), talking dogs/mythical bird adventure thrown in there.¬† All of that stuff is pretty cool, and will be sure to entertain the kids. However, as one of the grownup kids, the story (for me) was all about Carl dealing with his profound sense of loss and love. The flying house escapism, fantastic creatures and evil villains were all just means and metaphors for that awesome emotional narrative.

No lie, there were a lot of sobs and sniffles around me in the theater. If you’re old enough to know about love and loss, it’s hard not to be affected by UP. By now it’s no secret that Pixar knows how to tell a fantastic story, but who knew they could handle romantic drama so well? Superb work.

Visually, UP is just as stunning. The digital 3D tech employed for this film is far from a gimmick – it enhances the experience¬†of the film by multitudes. When Carl and Russell are walking over cliffs or trekking through gorgeously rendered South American jungles, with an enormous floating 3D house harnessed to their backs, it’s not just some of the most gorgeous eye-candy seen onscreen (the balloons are truly amazing), it’s also a very clever and potent metaphor for grief. Rendered in 3D, those themes stood out loud and clear; the rest of the time, this movie was just a treat to look at.

russel carl pixar up UP Review

I confess having wet eyes myself, not once, or twice, but on several instances during UP. Sometimes I was thinking, “This movie is breaking my heart.” Other times I was thinking, “This movie is melting my heart.” And sometimes, I was simply thinking, “This movie is so damn beautiful.”

It definitely lifted me UP.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. Why is everybody bashing Wall-e and/or Ratatouille? Those two are my favorite Pixar films!

    Back to Up, I agree with this review. It was brilliant. When I saw it, the kids around me seemed to take the emotional parts well and they were about 6 or 7. But Everybody is different…

  2. UP was, to date, one of the best movies to hit town since Cars and Monsters Inc. Certainly, Peter Doctor knows how to put things into perspective and deliver real-life stories to the both young and old in a way we will always appreciate. I do.

  3. And by the way Vic, thank you for being so open minded to give it a 5star. Hip hip hooray!

  4. Um thats Kofi Outlaw, right, thanks again.

  5. russel is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute

  6. i think my friends r weird they r singing songs about bashing babies

  7. If I was learning about death for the first time- this would be an enlightening movie. In any sense- a cute movie. I liked the dog. :)

  8. Okay.. this ios ridiculous.. walle AND Ratatouille are both REALLY well made .. of course they might be kind of boring but in Ratat… if you pay attention to the backgrounds they display PIXAR AND DISNEY portrayed paris really realistic… if u dont believe me the n go to FRANCE

  9. I don’t think anyone would deny the technical aspect of Pixar films. I thought Wall-e was well made, technically, but the story was just too boring and some parts were just dumb in my opinion…

    I liked Ratatouille.

  10. UP was well scripted and well done overall! I laughed and I cried (even my hubby had a glistening he will never fess to). By far the best movie of the summer.

  11. Up is THE greatest Pixar movie! Everything about it is great. It’s not even really for children, it’s kind of more for adults and just happens to be animated. Children will like it too, but adults may even like it more. Also I don’t understand why people didn’t like Wall-E! I thought that movie was incredible as well! I just think some people don’t like silent films, even though Wall-E wasn’t entirely silent, but some people just can’t appreciate it. Also The Incredibles and Cars have NOTHING in common with Wall-E or Up besides that they’re all Pixar and all animated, but other than that there’s no contest. The Incrediblesvand Cars are by far Pixar’s weak points! Up was so emotional. It made me cry both times I saw it. I saw it in 3D and in 2D and it was wonderful either way. Unlike other 3D films this one did not completely rely on 3D effects.

  12. LOL, if you say so, and saying they have nothing in common with Wall-E isn’t exactly an insult, that means they weren’t boring and preachy, oh noosssss!!!11 :-D lol

    The Incredibles and UP is among my favorite Pixar movies while Wall-E was a snore fest for me, even though I saw it for free on a plane ride where any entertainment should have been appreciated, even that wasn’t enough to get me to appreciate it…

    Well, the beginning was ok, then it got boring, then the ending was just retarded. So it was partially a snore fest, lol.

  13. UP is pretty good but its nowhere near as good as Finding Nemo. The adventure story in Nemo is much more memorable with better funnier characters and cleverer jokes throughout which gives the movie a much better pay off at the end as a result.

    i felt that UP could have done with a little more humour, most of the jokes were some kind of joke about what a dog would say if he could talk which was fine to begin with but which quickly became tiresome as the movie progressed, as did the film in general.

    its worth seeing though and the concept was good especially at the beginning of the movie where the themes are at their strongest dealing with loss and love before it transcends into run of the mill fair towards the middle through to the end.


  14. Thought it was visually brilliant & really good up until the typical ‘bad guy’ comes into it… then it becomes boring & predictable cos we’ve seen it all before when the baddie comes along:) Pity they didn’t go a different direction with it instead of the usual big ‘hollywood ending’… it could have been a real classic. That said it is really great up until the last 30 or 40 mins. I know other people will disagree & that’s no prob, we all see things differently.

  15. I really liked Finding Nemo too. I really loved UP and agree with the review though, but yah, it’s hard to compare it to Finding Nemo, I thought that was great too, but I wouldn’t directly compare them, I feel they are pretty different. I’ll just like them both equally. And The Incredibles too. :-)

  16. Pixar,
    bring back Brad Bird please.
    He can direct properly and develop story and characters,
    unlike whoever made UP.
    Best pixar so far? cmon you must be kidding, watch the Incredibles, and learn how to direct.

  17. The thing that killed it was the dogs. Steve (the main dog, at least I think that is his name) was good. Unfortunately, the rest were gimmicks. The squeaky voice was annoying and has been done before. A villian also killed this movie. The beginning, however, was STELLAR. Had the whole movie focused on them… Wow… That would have been awesome!

  18. The other day, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and
    tested to see if it can survive a 25 foot drop, just
    so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken
    and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!