After tackling rats with chef skills and voiceless robots on journeys of self-discovery, leave it to Pixar to make the star of its latest film an elderly man and continue to defy Hollywood’s long-held belief that animated films have to zero in on children and concepts that can be marketed into hats and toys and backpacks. Heck, in “Up” even animals talking are explained rather than simply taken for granted. But what sets it apart from other Pixar gems is that it’s the animation studio’s most inclusive for-the-whole family adventure to date.
It’s no surprise to anyone anymore that Pixar leads field the in terms of computer-generated animation and while “Up” continues this tradition, that’s not its specialty. “WALL*E” is still more of a spectacle and innovator. “Up” is Pixar’s proof that they can combine beautiful, heart-filled storytelling with laughs for every age group and adventure and action to boot and *still* make a killing at the box office.
On premise, most analysts wouldn’t predict a film about 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen ballooning his house to South America to honor a promise to his late wife to be even close to a box office success in the genre of animated family films, but attach the name Pixar and anything is possible. Dogs with collars that turn their thoughts in words and the dynamic between a young boy scout named Russell who accidentally was on Fredricksen’s porch when the house took off and an old man prove to be more than enough for great comedy and entertainment.
Sure, the plot itself once they get to South America leaves something to be desired, and the feasibility of an old man who can’t walk down his stairs being able to hold onto a dangling rope with a boy, a dog and a large bird on the other end will fail to suspend many adults’ disbelief, but there is never a moment devoid of something clever or meaningful in the entire film. The fresh and humorous concept proves quite forgiving as does the touching motivation in the story of Carl doing this for his dead wife. The montage through their years together is incredibly powerful for happening so early in the film. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson do an excellent job, though obviously Pixar’s constant success must be credited to John Lasseter.
Next to “WALL*E” whose innovation, imagination and genius themes might never be repeated in animated film, “Up” is Pixar’s best to date. There is honestly something for everyone: the elderly will relate to Carl’s struggles with aging, loss and unfulfillment; children will find plenty of physical humor to enjoy between the hysterical dogs and Russell’s slight lack of smarts; and the ages in between will find the story touching and the concepts and their execution nothing short of genius. And for once, Disney is even politically correct/inclusive in the diversity of characters.
Directed by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Written by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Thomas McCarthy
Starring: (voices) Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson