In the same way that Walt Disney Pictures has become synonymous with traditionally animated films, Pixar Animation Studio is usually the first studio to come to mind whenever mentioning computer-animated films. For over a decade, they have continued to deliver quality animated films that manage to entertain people of all ages. And each of their 10 feature films has been well received, in both a critical and financial sense. It’s no surprise that their latest film, UP! meets and exceeds the high standard set by its predecessors.
The story begins with a tired, disgruntled old man named Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner) who is living out his autumn years alone in the house he shared with his wife, Ellie (Elizabeth Docter). After a violent altercation with a construction worker, Fredrickson is deemed a danger to society. He is forced to move out of his house and into assisted living for the elderly. Rather than handing himself over to the caretakers, he inflates hundreds of helium-filled balloons and lifts his house right off of its foundation, bound for the mysterious Paradise Falls, “a land lost in time”, hoping to fulfill a broken promise to his wife. However, Fredricksen realizes too late that he’s brought along some extra baggage: a young Wilderness Explorer named Russel (Jordan Nagai) hoping to earn his “assisting the elderly” badge stows away on Fredricksen’s would-be airship. And when Russel’s interference causes him to land the house on the wrong side of the falls, Fredricksen and Russel–along with new companions Dug (Bob Peterson) the dimwitted, talking dog and “Kevin”, a mysterious, flightless bird—must make their journey across a strange terrain, trailed by mysterious pursuers.
The plot, while a bit simpler than Pixar’s other works (in that it doesn’t involve sapient automobiles, magic toys or lonely robots and doesn’t play out Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai with insects) still manages to be profound and emotional. By the end of the first scene, you WILL be misty-eyed. The comedy is always hilarious, and all of the characters are extremely likable. Visually, it’s a feast for the eyes. If seen in Disney Digital 3D, the movie is eye-popping. However, even without this perk, it is a flawlessly animated film. And the acting is done flawlessly, with each character sounding completely unique and each line sounding genuine.
However, while it is excellent, UP! is by no means perfect. The soundtrack is almost exclusively made up of arrangements of a single song. And while this song is excellent, hearing it arranged over and over for 90 minutes does get old. And from a plot perspective, the antagonist is a bit two-dimensional and their motives are a bit questionable, which seems unusual for a film that is otherwise pretty good at defying convention.
Despite these minor flaws, UP! is an excellent film, worthy of all the praise and success it has received. Like all of Pixar’s films it is a work of art, and will almost assuredly win the Oscar for best animated feature. If you missed this fantastic film while it was in theaters, do yourself a favor and go see it forthwith!