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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
U
Cast
Christopher Plummer
John Ratzenberger
Delroy Lindo
Edward Asner
Paul Eiding
Jordan Nagai.
Directors
Pete Docter
Bob Peterson.
Screenwriters
Running Time
102 minutes

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Up
Pixar’s tenth feature will spirit you away...


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Plot
Inspired by his childhood hero, adventurer Charles F. Muntz (Plummer), and the wishes of his late wife Ellie, octogenarian Carl Fredricksen (Asner) uses a bundle of balloons to fly his house to the jungles of Paradise Falls. His problems start when he discovers a stowaway, boy scout Russell (Nagai).


Review
Up
Browse more images »
In 1982, Werner Herzog made Fitzcarraldo, the story of an over-zealous Irishman (bonkers Klaus Kinski) who, in his quest to bring opera to the South American jungle, drags a huge steamer up and over a mountain. An epic, visionary, never-to-be-repeated slice-of-life action movie, it is also an unlikely touchstone for an animated summer entertainment, the likes of which are usually powered by focus groups and the need to tie in Happy Meals. Like Fitzcarraldo, Up, Pixar’s tenth feature-length slice of genius, is driven by a tenacious lead character dragging his home across the jungle, a real cinematic width and a sense of wonder at both nature and the burden of dreams. Unlike Fitzcarraldo, Up will break your heart in the first five minutes, boasts scene-stealing dogs with high-pitched voices and stars a rare exotic bird called Kevin. Herzog missed a trick there. A bird called Kevin would have done wonders for Fitzcarraldo’s box office.

If the traditional view of animation is that it is kiddie-aimed fare with a dose of adult slyness smuggled inbetween the primary colours and thrills and spills, Pixar appears to work on opposite principles. Even by its own standards, Up stretches the limits of what stories are permissible in mainstream animation. For all of WALL-E’s wordless abstraction, it still had sci-fi trappings, whizz-bang spaceships and cute robotic sidekicks. Here, the treatment and imagery is even more bizarre. It’s a character study of a cantankerous old git. It’s a buddy movie where the buddies are separated by 70 years. It’s a love story where the love transcends death.

Up also reveals an interesting retro reading on Pixar’s previous heroes, recasting the leads as figures stuck in a rut and looking for a way out of their status quo: the factory-working drones of Monsters, Inc., oppressed by the need to garner children’s screams; the obsolete superheroes of The Incredibles marooned in suburban mediocrity; the sewer-dwelling rat who dreams of a five-star kitchen in Ratatouille; WALL-E’s trash-compacting robot who yearns for life (and love) beyond the garbage. In Up’s case, the hero, Carl Fredricksen, is literally tethered to his house, dragging it across exotic South American landscapes, but in reality he’s tied to his memories of a previous life. It’s this that gives the U-rated thrills huge emotional heft.

As well as Fitzcarraldo, Up also shares trace elements with Chaplin, The Station Agent, The Wizard Of Oz, It’s A Wonderful Life, About Schmidt, Gran Torino and Hitchcock, so given its affectionate melting pot of filmic influences, it is perhaps apt that the movie starts with a little boy sat enraptured by the flickering images on a cinema screen. Carl Fredricksen, his eyes wide beneath aviator goggles, sits glued to the exploits of intrepid explorer Charles Muntz, detailed in a lovingly mounted mock-’30s newsreel, mouthing along with Muntz’s catchphrase, “Adventure is out there!” This ’30s milieu looms large: the entire film is fuelled by that decade’s spirit of derring-do, the thrill of hero worship and the sense of the world as a huge playground waiting to be explored. As Carl leaves the movie theatre, he imagines the newsreel narrator describing his journey home as a grand adventure, his imagination turning stepping over the cracks in the pavement into jumping over the widest ravines. It’s a lovely gracenote that acknowledges the importance of dreaming (and day-dreaming) within everyday life without once pouring on any sentimental, saccharine claptrap.

On the way home, Carl hooks up with fellow Muntz fan and wannabe adventurer Ellie (who looks like the kid sister of The Incredibles’ Helen Parr), and what follows is the most beautifully wrought, poetic love story of the year. As the couple’s dreams of adventures in far-flung places get parlayed into the reality of everyday life, Docter and Peterson provide snapshots of married life, a kind of Revolutionary Road without the harsh shouting, that movingly document the tiny triumphs (turning a rundown house into a Technicolor dream home) and crushing catastrophes (Ellie’s sad discovery at the hospital) that constitute a life. It’s a perfect piece of simple story-telling so lucid and moving that if you left the movie at that point, you’d feel thoroughly satisfied that you’d got your money’s worth.

Yet, happily, Up has plenty more surprises in its locker. Resembling a boxed version of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner-era Spencer Tracy, old man Carl (voiced by Ed Asner), withdrawn from life and facing eviction from his cherished love nest, comes up with a plan to finally realise his long-held dreams. Working his entire life as a balloon vendor, the plucky pensioner ties his inventory to his house, floating himself, his home and the movie into an entirely different zone of unpredictability. The first surprise is that Carl is not alone: an eager-beaver Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell, desperate to earn his ‘Assist The Elderly’ badge, has stowed away on Carl’s porch. Russell boasts more buoyancy than all the old man’s balloons put together, and his relationship with Carl is tenderly etched. The arc of Carl’s initial disdain to the pair’s mutual companionship and dependency might be obvious, but the bond never feels forced.

What this second phase of Up doesn’t have is the kind of tight plotting that makes the best of Pixar sing (it also has one of the studio’s weakest villains), but its more freeform approach delivers some real delights. There is a run-in with colourful wildlife: the rare exotic bird Russell dubs Kevin is straight off the Chuck Jones drawing pad, a space-cadet version of Road Runner; in a genius move, a pack of dogs on the trail of the bird are able to vocalise their inner thoughts and obsessions through electronic collars. The best of this bunch is Dug (hilariously voiced by co-director Peterson), a goofy, endearing nerd of a mutt. Up also delivers the best action sequences of the season: an escape from the drooling dogs and a heart-stopping third act aerial combat involving a Zeppelin are perfectly crafted, virtuoso set-pieces where you can actually tell who is pursuing who. Most animation bombards the viewer with sensory overload and sees what sticks, but Up is more classical in approach. From subtle joke-making — look out for the cute sideswipe at C. M. Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker paintings — to a beautifully controlled colour palette that moves through the muted tones of Carl’s house to the explosion of hues in Paradise Falls, to Michael Giacchino’s lovely, artful score, this is refined filmmaking by any standards. Every now and then, Docter and Peterson deliver some 3-D bravura — the depth of field in a jungle sunset, or Russell swinging towards the camera on a rope — but for the most part they are admirably restrained. This is because they have bigger fish to fry. Up doesn’t need 3-D gizmology because, ironically, it is rooted in solid foundations. For all its fantastical leanings, Up is that rare animated film that sees the world as real. Its pains feel real and its joys feel earned. That may be an obvious thing, but it lifts Up into a class by its beautiful self.


Verdict
If it had lived up to its golden first five minutes, Up would have been the film of the decade. As it is, it remains the best animated flick of 2009, a funny, moving, beautifully made argument that dreamers can move mountains.


Reviewed by Ian Freer


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Up
Empire Star Rating

More Pixar magic

I would actually give it four and a half stars but for that montage alone, this emotional gem earns the full five. One of the most heartwarming experiences I've ever had at the cinema. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 02:24, 07 February 2013 | Report This Post


Half good half bad.

The film was great until the house lands at paradise falls then the eyes start to roll. This movie didnt need talking dogs or funny creatures and it didnt need a villain. The whole movie should have been about the first act and the pay off should have been reaching paradise falls. There was enough material there to stretch it out, but they rushed the most interesting bits. If they had given the construction workers bigger parts, the care home an extended run and battling more of the elements... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dfooster at 00:22, 02 January 2013 | Report This Post


Up Review

Another masterful work of art from Pixar, Up is an exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt adventure impeccably crafted and told with wit and depth. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 00:01, 14 December 2011 | Report This Post


Pixar Gold

My favourite and probably the most finest Pixar family film that is certainly not kids only. It is funny, exciting and warmly touching storytelling told with such heart and depth. Hugely enjoyable whilst remaining ambitious and welcomingly refreshing. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 09:21, 02 August 2011 | Report This Post


The Return Of Pixar

The first couple of minutes are the funniest thing ever to be put into an animated film. However, contrary to my expectations, the piece developed into an involving and moving character study that is seldom dull but often times somewhat annoying. However, this can be forgiven as there are moments of pure comedy gold in here, and the story is by far Pixar's best for a long while. Welcome back ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 10:48, 16 March 2011 | Report This Post


Sublime

Whilst not quite achieving the 'masterpiece' tag so deservingly given to Toy Story 3, this is nonetheless a stunning piece of work by Pixar. I blubbed my way through the perfection that is the first ten minutes. The removal of vocals and allowing the music to deliver the emotional sledgehammer was a stroke of pure genius. You fall in love with Carl right there and then; you feel sorry for the guy. Perhaps this is the Disney moral here- never judge somebody before you know why they are cranky or... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Boromirs Redemption at 12:11, 05 January 2011 | Report This Post


Sublime

Whilst not quite achieving the 'masterpiece' tag so deservingly given to Toy Story 3, this is nonetheless a stunning piece of work by Pixar. I blubbed my way through the perfection that is the first ten minutes. The removal of vocals and allowing the music to deliver the emotional sledgehammer was a stroke of pure genius. You fall in love with Carl right there and then; you feel sorry for the guy. Perhaps this is the Disney moral here- never judge somebody before you know why they are cranky or... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Boromirs Redemption at 12:11, 05 January 2011 | Report This Post


Why the hell am i crying??

Albert Einstein once implied “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Well I just saw the film UP and try as I might, I simply can’t explain what makes it work… I can explain the movie simply…Old Man flies his house away using balloons to South America, meets boy, finds dog – rescues bird… There that was simple, the understanding - now that’s the hard part… Is it the beauty in the colours of ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by AllenDunn at 11:36, 04 August 2010 | Report This Post


Why the hell am i crying??

Albert Einstein once implied "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough”. Well I just saw the film UP and try as I might, I simply can't explain what makes it work… I can explain the movie simply…Old Man flies his house away using balloons to South America, meets boy, finds dog – rescues bird… There that was simple, the understanding - now that's the hard part… Is it the beauty in the colours of the landscapes and sky, the amazing rendition of the 3D effects, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by AllenDunn at 11:29, 04 August 2010 | Report This Post


Just enchanting.

Magnicificant. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kurtis93 at 13:19, 31 May 2010 | Report This Post


Absolute Heaven

I'll never forget this film. And I heart pixar. I really do ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 01:31, 13 April 2010 | Report This Post


I loved the first 5-10 minutes but I really don't see what the fuss is about. The animation was absolutely fantastic but I lost any sight of who the characters were, and that bird thing was just a bit crap. I'd say it was on a par with Ratatouille in that some of the situations were just a little too surreal to rank up there with the Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Sorry ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chris wootton at 13:12, 05 March 2010 | Report This Post


Great movie. Lovely story told at the very beginning that really made you care about the character and the whole story. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jordan Rowe at 20:49, 01 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Up

I enjoyed it, but as a kids film it isn't great. well not young kids anyway, say under 8, my kids were bored by it and only showed brief interest in the talking dogs. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by genejoke at 17:29, 01 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Stunning

Totally brilliant.  welled up about 3 times throughout the film.  Loved it. I was hiding under your porch because I love you! ... More

Posted by Invader_Ace at 23:42, 21 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: the feel good film slumdog millionaire was advertised for ebing

The opening twenty minutes were quite touching. The rest of the film was likable, with charming characters.Slighly over-rated imo. This adventure would have been more emotionally and breathtaking 3D. Fantastic Mr.Fox is still best fave animated feature this year. 7/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by m_er at 09:17, 30 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Excellent, well done Pixar

Watched the DVD last night and loved every second of it.   I felt like young Carl watching the screen with a wide open mouth. Brilliant! ... More

Posted by grucl at 13:15, 25 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: the feel good film slumdog millionaire was advertised for ebing

I wasn't completely sold on the 3D and thought they could have put it to better use, but that aside I thought the film was brilliant. And yes, those first 5 minutes had me in tears, as did the bit where he reads the message in the adventure book, as did the very end where he gives Russell the badge... Damn that was a sad film. My problem though was that it never lived up to the first 5minutes. As for the talking dogs, I did find them funny at the time, but that was mainly down to the fact that ... More

Posted by hiptobesquare_x at 22:47, 15 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: the feel good film slumdog millionaire was advertised for ebing

The first 5 mins or so were the most heart breaking I've seen in many a year, but once the film got into full swing it was good fun, though not the masterpiece some would have you believe. I'd give it 3.5 out of 5 as it still doesn't come close to the Toy Story movies or The Incredibles (which I consider to be Pixars finest). As a side note when we saw it today the two youngish kids sat near us were asking to go after about an hour. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by skeletonjack at 20:20, 15 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: the feel good film slumdog millionaire was advertised for ebing

Unbelievably cute, incredibly heartbreaking, yet equally heart warming. Had me in tears at numerous points, honest running down my face. Im glad I watched it alone, I wouldnt have been able to bear the mocks of my friends. Well done pixar. ... More

Posted by kumar at 20:33, 14 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: the feel good film slumdog millionaire was advertised for ebing

I think there is a great chance for an Oscar here. ... More

Posted by Timmy_Brisby_05 at 07:39, 13 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: One star (only coz zero is not an option)

Superb film. I agree with empire. Animationwise it's absolute brilliance. 3 D is the best ever seen. Story is fine. But not UP to Pixar-PAR.The scenes with Carl and his wife are so beautiful, I could watch them every day. But here lies the only problem. It is not a kids movie. It is for adults. It should have been for adults. Docter tried to make it a kids friendly film by adding the talking dogs (BAD idea, the mouse pulling a Chef's hair in Ratatouille was so-so, but this is BAD) and a big red... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BobM70 at 23:40, 12 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: One star (only coz zero is not an option)

Great stuff i loved this movie Another winner from Pixar and one of the best films of the year 9.5/10 ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 11:02, 10 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: the feel good film slumdog millionaire was advertised for ebing

reakingly beautiful, simply a delight, dare I say it, their best.p; waste on children frankly, it's Pixar do Capra, it's every frame reach into your heart and pull it out, dust it down and put it back with a aching glow that will never leave you.t="trebuchet ms"] deeply moving, poignent, affecting, just mesmoring, DVD essential purchase with great story, loving and giving, loved every minute and want to see it immediately. t="trebuchet ms"] . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JIm R at 22:38, 01 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: the feel good film slumdog millionaire was advertised for ebing

4/5 The opening montage will be the best thing all year. The rest of the film could never live up to it and turned into a generic dreamworks film with some magic Pixar moments here and there. ... More

Posted by The Shat at 05:04, 01 November 2009 | Report This Post


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