Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, John Ratzenberger, David Kaye, Elie Docter, Jeremy Leary, Mickie McGowan, Danny Mann, Donald Fullilove, Jess Harnell, Josh Cooley
Written by: Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, based on a story by Thomas McCarthy, Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
Directed by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
MPAA Rating: PG for some peril and action
Running Time: 96
Date: 09/05/2009

Up (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Pixar's tenth animated feature film clocks in as one of their best. It's a fairly light, simple entertainment, without the sheer genius of the first hour of WALL-E, but it's also more balanced and satisfying than that film. In terms of its use of space and setting, it's a grand, graceful achievement, capturing a genuine feeling of height, gravity, and movement through empty sky.

It begins with a kind of melancholy montage, as two childhood friends, Ellie and Carl Fredricksen grow up and marry. They make many plans, most of which are thwarted, but they genuinely enjoy being together. Finally Ellie dies, leaving the 70-something Mr. Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner) alone. With nothing left, he decides to follow their mutual dream and travel to Venezuela, to the mythical Paradise Falls, to live. Since he was once a balloon seller at the zoo, he inflates enough balloons to carry off his house and all his belongings. (What a beautiful, indelible sight this is!)

Unfortunately, he discovers Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) -- an annoying "wilderness explorer" who hopes to get his "assisting the elderly" merit badge -- clutching his front porch. Together they make it to South America, but land on the wrong side of the falls and must continue their journey on foot, dragging the still floating house via a garden hose.

In the jungle, they meet a loony, jumbo-sized bird that Russell names "Kevin," as well as an army of talking dogs, belonging to a once-famous, now-disgraced explorer, Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer). The idea is that Mr. Fredricksen must decide between his own, long-gesticulating plans and the more immediate plans of his new acquaintances.

Asner does a wonderful job bringing Mr. Fredricksen to life, despite his odd circumstances, but I would have liked a more multi-dimensional villain, one who didn't immediately try to kill everyone. The real reason to see this, however, is not so much the plot, but rather the whole, extraordinary look of the film, including some outstanding, subtle 3D effects (easily the equal of Coraline). Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) directs, assisted by screenwriter/voice actor Bob Peterson. Up shows with a nice new cartoon short, Partly Cloudy.

Disney is offering Up in a four-disc set, complete with two Blu-Ray discs, a DVD and a "digital copy" for your computer or phone. Needless to say, the Blu-Ray discs come with more extras, but since I still don't have a Blu-Ray player, I will report on only the DVD extras. They include Partly Cloudy and a new short cartoon, Dug's Special Mission, which fits into the middle of the movie. We get a 22-minute featurette, an alternate scene and a director's commentary.

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