"Up" carries audience away


June 1, 2009, midnight | By Lauren Kestner | 11 years, 4 months ago

Latest Pixar film features stunning 3-D effects


Pixar soars to new heights with the release of "Up," an animated masterpiece that speaks to the redemptive power of love as a means to cope with loss and hardship. Director Pete Doctor ("Monsters, Inc.") delivers a gripping narrative that comes to life with vivid 3-D imagery, chronicling the unlikely friendship that emerges between an old grouch and young wilderness scout.

"Up" follows the story of Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), a retired balloon vendor who is still mourning the loss of his late wife Ellie (Elie Doctor). After discovering that he will be required to move to a retirement community, Fredricksen attaches thousands of helium-filled balloons to his house and embarks on a journey to the fabled Paradise Falls in South America – site of his and Ellie's childhood dreams. The expedition is nearly compromised when Fredricksen finds a stowaway: eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer Russell (Jordan Nagai), who insists on helping Fredricksen so that he can receive his "Assisting the Elderly" badge and graduate to the position of Senior Wilderness Explorer. On their journey to Paradise Falls, Russell and Fredricksen encounter Kevin, an exotic bird native to the region, and Dug (Bob Peterson), an overly-friendly mutt who can communicate through a special collar. The foursome must work together to quell the forces of evil that threaten an otherwise idyllic Paradise Falls.

Pixar's stunning computer-generated graphics, which are manifested in the dichotomy of Paradise Fall's stark peaks and lush tropical expanses, rival the rich imagery achieved in last year's "WALL-E." Movie-goers of all ages will be dazzled by the sight of Fredricksen's quaint Victorian house, supported by a conglomerate of multi-colored balloons, as it detaches from its foundation and soars past skyscrapers on its maiden voyage to the exotic lands of South America.

Heartwarming musical scores, composed by Michael Giacchino, match the spirit of adventure that is captured in its vivid imagery. One sentimental piece accompanies a silent four-minute sequence that is arguably the film's greatest cinematic achievement. The audience watches as Fredricksen and his wife get married, work at the zoo, save money for the Paradise Falls trip and grow old together – building up until the day Ellie tragically passes away.

"Up" also brings smiles and laughs to compensate for the tearful moments. The fierce army of dogs is easily distracted by the mention of a treat, ball or squirrel, and the dim-witted but adorable Dug, who claims to be an excellent tracker, most often points the crew in the opposite direction. The pathetic duel between the aging Fredricksen and his equally decrepit foe – filled with breaking backs, flying canes and loud groans of pain – is another source of amusement.

The film's best moments are the poignant exchanges between Fredricksen and Russell, who forge a close-knit relationship in the verdant wilderness to give the film emotional depth. Fredricksen's relationship with Russell evolves from that of a resentful caregiver to a loving father figure as the film progresses. Asner expertly handles this transition, switching from Clint Eastwood-like growls to good-natured chuckles near the film's end. Nagai captures the youthful jubilance of the young Russell, who helps Fredricksen cope with the loss of his wife.

Audiences have learned to expect good things from the makers of "Toy Story," "Ratatouille" and "WALL-E," and Pixar's latest is no exception. Movie-goers will be lifted away by "Up" and its enchanting tale of two unlikely heroes who floated their way to Paradise Falls.

"Up" (96 minutes) is rated PG for some peril and action. Now playing in theaters everywhere.




Lauren Kestner. Lauren Kestner loves Trader Joe's chocolates, cheesy television soap operas, summer trips to Lake Anna, coffee ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, hikes at Northwest Branch and shopping at Heritage. Playing soccer for Blair or her MSC club team and running at the gym consumes much … More »

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