Note from James: I actually saw this movie in May when it was first released, but for some reason I completely neglected to write a review. Shame on me!
Stars: **** out of Four
Summary: Wrapped up in a package of innocence is a heartbreaking, touching story, told as only Pixar can tell it.
Review: Pixar has something of a rep. Every single one of their theatrical releases has been not just a financial success, but a bonafide blockbuster. Yet, they refuse to use the common tropes of modern animation; things such as strictly juvenile humor, adult bonuses, and endlessly annoying characters (the sheer volume of the last item in other CGI films raises the question as to whether it is intentional!). Not only did they pioneer the CGI animation medium, they continue to be a shining city of quality, sitting on an unapproachable hill.
Their latest, ‘Up’, continues this trend in unexpected ways. It lacks the high and exciting qualities of previous successes such as ‘The Incredibles’, instead providing a story rather small in scope. It follows an old man, widowed years before, as he deals with his grief and disappointment with life. The story’s remarkable success belies its humble central thread; in the end, both the heartbreaking and the heart-racing are explored with great enthusiasm. It’s an adventure story, completely appropriate for all ages, and universally affecting to them all. The ridiculous heroics of the same serials that inspired ‘Indiana Jones’ are used as a template for the fun side of the equation, and never do they feel awkward when paired with the story’s central themes. Strangely enough, ‘Up’ contains some of the most overtly cartoonish elements of Pixar’s history, including the classic Walt Disney staple of talking dogs (though accomplished in a clever way).
The first five minutes are the most powerful I’ve seen in an animated film. It matches the new ‘Star Trek’ in emotional realism during the opening moments. I’ve seen otherwise emotionally distant people react strongly to this sequence, and it’s hard to think about without being slightly affected.
Pixar’s new regular, Michael Giacchino, provides another great score. It’s married excellently to the film, but also deserves a listen for its own merits. I would suggest a purchase of the soundtrack.
Anyway, quite excellent, great fun, and a great story.