If you were going to bet the farm, your children, your left testicle on something, it would seem that betting it all on Pixar Animation Studios making a great film is a sure thing! These days, Pixar can do no wrong as it has created its tenth feature film, Up directed by Pete Docter, that is once again not only a beautiful, stunning picture to look at but a wonderful, heartfelt, thought-provoking tale to watch unfold, leaving the audience feeling as though it has experienced something magical. Pixar is the studio that other studios admire and try to be, the model, the one that constantly achieves greatness in cinema and business. And, there is a reason that Pixar is constantly reaching new heights, raising the bar, and creating extraordinary film experiences. They have figured out the formula for success, what it takes to make a grand piece of escapism, while making the dollar. It involves not necessarily the amazing animation, which is always a step above the rest, but surprise… the creative story and the characters that deliver it. Up has a wonderful story that stars not a lion or a mouse or even a cute fish, but a crotchety, crudgedy, old man. I wonder if Disney was worried about the merchandise profit. I would think that not too many kids would want to play with an old man action figure but oh well.
Do not be misled by Up just being your classic everyday kids tale of adventure. On the contrary, it depicts a wonderful story full of deep thematic issues that come to find us all, growing old, living life, holding on, and letting go. I sat for the first thirty minutes wondering if this movie was made for kids at all. All the while, adventure is certainly taking place around Carl, voiced brilliantly by the great Ed Asner. As a young man, Carl has dreamed of living a life of adventure, following his hero, Charles Muntz , voiced by Christopher Plummer, into the great wilderness of South America. He meets a young girl, Ellie who shares his enthusiasm for adventure and likes Carl from the start. Carl and Ellie are married and are happy with the simple pleasures of being together, working together, living together, all the while dreaming of the ultimate adventure. They begin saving every cent they can to travel to see the Great Falls in South America, but time passes by, things alter the plan, Ellie gets sick and passes away, leaving Carl alone to find his way on his own.
Life continues, and we see Carl struggling to keep his home from the grasp of a development company while trying to avoid being placed in an assisted living community. Carl has made his living a balloon maker and decides one evening to take his house, that is his most prized possession, up and air-born, by tying thousands of balloons to it. There is one little speed-bump, however. A little boy named Russell, an adventure scout aimed at assisting the elderly to collect a merit badge, accidentally winds up on the front porch of the house while it is in the air. Russell voiced by a little actor named Jordan Nagai, becomes the comical stowaway that provides some funny moments with a very sweet colorful bird named Kevin and a naive but loyal dog named Dug.
Up, is a beautiful film. The animation is once again first rate as the pastel color palette is gorgeous to look at, while the characters are wonderful new creations. But, it is the story here that shines as the star of the film. As in Wall-E, one of the best pictures of last year, Up provides us with first class entertainment, while also providing meaningful messages and themes. And Pete Docter, writer of 2004’s smash hit Monster’s Inc, and newcomer Bob Peterson accomplish this without being cheesy or sappy. They are smart writers with the knowledge that kids are smart and they aim to please smart, savvy audiences that appreciate films like Up. They, like the rest of the gang at Pixar, know what it takes to churn out hit after hit, and I bet they could teach people like Micheal Bay a thing or two.