Ed Asner as Carl Fredricksen (voice)
Christopher Plummer as Charles Muntz (voice)
Jordan Nagai as Russell (voice)
Bob Peterson as Dug, Alpha (voice)
Delroy Lindo as Beta (voice)
Jerome Ranft as Gamma (voice)
John Ratzenberger as Construction Foreman Tom (voice)
David Kaye as Newsreel Announcer (voice)
Elie Docter as Young Ellie (voice)
Jeremy Leary as Young Carl (voice)
Mickie McGowan as Police Officer Edith (voice)
Danny Mann as Construction Worker Steve (voice)
Donald Fullilove as Nurse George (voice)
Jess Harnell as Nurse AJ (voice)
Josh Cooley as Omega (voice)
While “Up” doesn’t look all that appealing on the surface, it has an incredibly fun story filled with great characters, cool action ..SQUIRREL!!!!! . amazing 3-D animation, and some wonderful humor.
When Carl Fredricksen’s wife passes away, he finds himself alone and hopeless in a house by himself. As he sees his world falling apart, he comes to the realization that he never fulfilled a childhood promise to his wife Ellie. Carl promised to take her to Venezuela to see a waterfall explored by their childhood hero Charles Muntz. However, life got in the way and they never made it.
With nothing left to lose, Carl resolves to make it to South America in an unconventional way he ties thousands of balloons to his house and floats away. All goes according to plan until he discovers an unwitting stowaway. Wilderness Guide Russell was on the porch when the house floated away and now he’s along for the ride.
Russell and Carl eventually land in Venezuela and find the unexpected. They meet a large bird that Russell names Kevin and a dog with a talking collar named Dug. But with all these new traveling companions, will Carl be able to complete his mission or find himself on a completely new adventure in life?
“Up” is rated PG for some peril and action.
I would have loved to see the pitch meeting for this film. It’s certainly not an easy story to describe, and even when you describe it, it doesn’t sound as compelling as “toys come to life!” or “robots in space!”. I saw Disney’s presentation for this at the San Diego Comic-Con last year and wasn’t all that impressed. I thought Pixar might have their first flop. Boy was I wrong! I ended up liking “Up” better than “WALLE.”
What’s fun about “Up” is that all the characters are familiar. Everyone knows a grumpy old man that lives alone in a house and has a cane with tennis balls on the end. Everyone knows a kid that is a Boy Scout. Everyone knows a quirky dog. But when you take all those familiar, everyday characters and dump them into an extraordinary situation, their familiar characteristics can generate a lot of laughs. For example, an old man walking down the street is not funny. An old man walking through the jungle with a floating house tied to him IS funny. A dog getting distracted is not particularly funny. A dog with a talking collar that gets distracted and yells, “Squirrel!” is very funny. You get the idea. It’s a story formula that works quite well for “Up.” Because you can identify with them, you get pulled into their adventure all the more.
“Up” is also very funny. Dug and his fellow talking dogs are hilarious. Now, we’ve seen talking dogs before, but what makes these dogs fun is that they still act like dogs despite talking. They are not always bright. They are easily distracted in the pursuit of squirrels. They punish each other with the “Cone of Shame.” They’ll steal your food when you aren’t looking. Pet owners are going to get a real kick out of these characters. Russell is also quite funny because he still behaves like a kid, not like an adult in a kid’s body. Russell whines when he’s tired. He’s innocent and unwaveringly loyal. He accepts the extraordinary and gets his feelings hurt. And he’s a klutz. Then there’s Kevin, the bizarre, colorful, large bird. Kevin is a walking lesson in animation. The bird’s motions are quite birdlike, but still fantastic for physical comedy. The bird clucks in a funny way, steals chocolate, and just acts really bizarre. You quickly fall in love with it like you do Dug.
The characters are perfectly voiced. Ed Asner may be typecast as Carl Fredricksen, but it works. He’s equally convincing as a grump or an action hero. The opening sequence showing his life together with the adventurous Ellie was perfectly done and went a long way towards showing he’s something more than a grump old man. Jordan Nagai is also great as Russell, one of Disney’s few Asian characters. Bob Peterson continues the tradition of a movie crew member coming in and voicing a character that steals the show. He voices Dug as well as the villainous dog Alpha. The supporting cast includes Christopher Plummer as Charles Muntz, Delroy Lindo as Beta, and Pixar good luck charm John Ratzenberger as Construction Foreman Tom.
The animation is wonderful. I saw it in 3-D and as usual was blown away. If you can see it in 3-D, go out of your way to do so. The balloons look amazing. The animation of the clouds caught my eye, too. When the characters are at heights, the 3-D is particularly effective. I also felt that the animation of the birds and dogs was particularly well done. They really captured the quirks of their behavior. I loved a moment in the film where Russell is tired, he slumps down, and then is dragged through the sand face down while whining. It’s a perfect example of great character animation.
“Up” is preceded by a short film as usual. This time it’s “Partly Cloudy.” It’s about storks delivering baby animals to Earth after they’ve been created by fluffy clouds. The story follows one hapless stork that must deliver the less cute baby animals to Earth. He must start with a rather dangerous baby alligator and it goes downhill from there. It’s absolutely hilarious and a great way to kick off “Up.” You could also tell they really perfected the fluffy cloud look in this short.
What Didn’t Work:
I’ve heard John Lasseter say that for every laugh in a film, there should be a tear. “Up” does have a few tearful moments. We see Ellie find out she can’t have children. We eventually see her death. We see Carl all alone. It’s very sad. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make you say, “I hope this lightens up soon or I’m going to cry in my popcorn.” We also eventually learn Russell’s parents are divorced and his Dad is with another woman. It felt like heavy material considering the characters are walking around with a giant bird and a talking dog. But if a child from a broken home can identify with it and it helps them feel better, it’s a good thing. I just hope it doesn’t make my kids think I’m going to leave them. (Absolutely not going to happen.) They see enough of that in the world.
The Bottom Line:
Pixar has somehow managed to go 10 for 10. I’m amazed and hope they can continue that perfect record. I believe next up is “Toy Story 3” in 3-D!