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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
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

RE: Fucked Up

L: SpiderBat Absolute shite compared to Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars - Pixar's genius hat-trick. Pixar's downward trend started with Rat, continued with Wall-E, and now this, the worst of the lot. These 3 films are sentimental middle of the road pap disguised as quality. s type of movie now find a formula other than "quiet" character matched with irritating balls clenchingly "loud" character? ]   I love Finding Nemo, but if you are using this reason to criticise Up... More

Posted by EricL at 21:49, 19 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

Best film I've seen all year bar none, it really has been a bit of a bad year for movies (odd year curse), this just made me feel warm and fuzzy and as a red blooded 27 year old male making me cry in a kids movie takes a lot. Up is fantastic, it ain't a kids movie (for the most part) Dug is a genius character of comedy and pathos and Karl is a perfect action hero (old is the new young). Out of 5 I'd give it a 6. Might I add in my eyes Pixar has done no wrong EVER!! so take my review as y... More

Posted by MOnkeyboy1138 at 09:12, 19 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

Wow what a fantastic film. But I wouldn't give it the 5 stars so many of you are arguing for. Why? Because I think it came off as restrained. Masterful, but restrained none-the-less. Looking back, I don't remember being 'wowed' much. A couple of moments, when the house takes off for the first time, and the early part of Carl's journey, were borderline spectacular but never seemed to go all the way. I felt restricted for some reason, like there was a much bigger aspect to the story that I w... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 16:44, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fucked Up

I like cars. I'm old enough to have a car. It's a nice one too. So kiss my Desmond Tutu. ... More

Posted by SpiderBat at 13:20, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fucked Up

L: SpiderBat Absolute shite compared to Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars - Pixar's genius hat-trick. Pixar's downward trend started with Rat, continued with Wall-E, and now this, the worst of the lot. These 3 films are sentimental middle of the road pap disguised as quality. Can this type of movie now find a formula other than "quiet" character matched with irritating balls clenchingly "loud" character? i]Carsus? The fuck? Of all the films you described, that is the one most g... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 12:09, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fucked Up

L: Rgirvan44 The guy calls Cars genuis. Thats all I need to know. :D]ue point ... More

Posted by TheGodfather at 11:14, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fucked Up

The guy calls Cars genuis. Thats all I need to know. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 11:12, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fucked Up

Wow, exaggerating quite a bit, aren`t you?  ... More

Posted by TheGodfather at 10:57, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

Very good indeed. Unlike Wall-E it maintianed its heart in the second half amongst all the action.  ... More

Posted by hatebox at 00:32, 18 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

This film is better than you or me. Just see it! And yes Dougs joke is the best of the year. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 23:49, 17 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

Can't add anything new really apart from to say I loved it too. I've seen it in 2D and 3D now and can honestly say the 3D doesn't make it better in any way. If anything, it hinders the film. I find those glasses a bit clumsy over my normal glasses and keep adjusting them just takes me out of the movie. Sad that 2D versions were only granted 2 showings a week at my local fleapit. But back to Up. It's sublime. Maybe my favourite film of the year (so far). ... More

Posted by frankie at 18:15, 17 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

My ten year old loved this. I'm sure the subtext about grief and moving on probably went over his head, but it didn't matter.   Oh, and is it just me, or was Doug's joke the funniest moment of the year?   The customary five star masterpiece from Pixar. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by matty_b at 23:00, 16 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

L: fakecrusader Saw it last night and afterwards my son asked what rating Empire gave it. I told him 4 and he asked "why not 5?". I then realised I did not know. Having read the review again, the only reason I can find for marking it down is that it's not "the film of the decade". That's a bit harsh! I'll admit to being a Pixar fanboy but that doesn't grant classic status to each one of their films; however in this case I think you got it wrong and your own review is the evidence to ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 09:55, 16 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

Saw it last night and afterwards my son asked what rating Empire gave it. I told him 4 and he asked "why not 5?". I then realised I did not know. Having read the review again, the only reason I can find for marking it down is that it's not "the film of the decade". That's a bit harsh! I'll admit to being a Pixar fanboy but that doesn't grant classic status to each one of their films; however in this case I think you got it wrong and your own review is the evidence to back it up (or did the "s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fakecrusader at 09:39, 16 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

Overrated! So long boys! ... More

Posted by Timmy_Brisby_05 at 20:21, 15 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Oversold

Adored it. Full of the innovation, poignancy, adventure and sheer joy we've almost come to take for granted from Pixar. It's been said to death but the opening montage was utterly sublime. However, although it was the most memorable highlight, dwelling on it discredits the absolute splendidness of the following 90 minutes.   Can't wait for Toy Story 3.   ***** ... More

Posted by kingalan at 19:32, 15 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Oversold

to echo everyone else here in saying that the opening 10 minutes is by far the best sequence I've seen in a film this year, and contains one of the greatest, quietly affecting montages that I've ever seen. totally agree.  I loved this film and found it very moving and yes I'm not ashamed to say that I cried but it was ok, nobody saw me as I was in the dark wearing my 3D glasses! ... More

Posted by Twisted Kitty at 18:41, 15 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Oversold

L: adambatman82 L: Seamus. Pat. Not too sure about all these good comments. Animations should be fun. To start the movie in such a sad way - wife and kids (8 & 9) crying, extracts the humour from the movie immediately. Some very funny parts but constantly returning to nostalgic memories by Mr Muntz makes the story far too emotional and makes it difficult to laugh all the way through the movie. Very likable characters but I think the story could have been adapted in such a way wer... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 02:20, 15 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

Dare I say uplifting? In all seriousness though, this was a wonderful film, in every respect. Obviously, the animation was superb - it's Pixar, what do you expect? - but there truly wasn't a single bad part of this film. True, it isn't quite as ambitious as the opening might suggest (although it's still pretty daring, in scenes if not in overall scope), and the character arc is a little formulaic, but Pixar have never told revolutionary stories. They've used unusual and inventive worl... More

Posted by shinysavage at 01:53, 15 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

L: spamandham "Indeed. Childrens films do not have to mean "safe" films." Yeah! We can't have the little toe rags going away from the cinema happy, can we now? sp; Why not? I don't see why a childrens film can't be sad, scary, funny and action packed all at the same time. The classic kids films tend to have all of these things, while the flash in the pan speak-down-to-the-little-tykes movies may make money when they are first out, but quickly get forgotton. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 14:37, 14 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

L: spamandham "Indeed. Childrens films do not have to mean "safe" films." Yeah! We can't have the little toe rags going away from the cinema happy, can we now? ell I watched Return to Oz at the cinema and left loving it even though it had scared the shit out of me. My 8 year old somehow managed to watch Up and also left the cinema having really enjoyed it. Just because a film is for kids doesn't mean it shouldn't look to entertain them. Giving a film some depth and m... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Flatulent_Bob at 14:16, 14 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Up

"Indeed. Childrens films do not have to mean "safe" films." Yeah! We can't have the little toe rags going away from the cinema happy, can we now? ... More

Posted by spamandham at 00:18, 14 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fcr Kids?

saw it yesterday in 3D - which as others have mentioned - did not seem to add much, apart from more money given to the cinema!  Loved the first 10 minutes - very touching, but then found it became quite generic and a bit bland (as if written just for kids and not adults), a simple story of rescuing the good guy from the bad guy there were some good / clever bits here and there, a couple of laughs, but I did not find it to be masterpiece many reviews have claimed it is I fou... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hampstead bandit at 21:57, 13 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fcr Kids?

I absolutely adore this movie. It had the perfect blend of humor, drama, and action. I laughed and I cried along with the rest of the audience in the theater. Everyone left with a smile on their face once the movie finished. Pixar has got talent and Up is surely to become a classic (of its own). I hope they come out with intelligent movies like this unlike some of the stupid crap we see in theaters these days. ... More

Posted by Ezzieblue at 19:44, 13 October 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Oversold

L: adambatman82 L: Seamus. Pat. Adambatman82 - I totally agree with you, Children should understand mortality. The Boy in the Stripe Pyjamas is a movie, I believe all 10yr olds should watch. But for Christ sake when you take kids to cinema nowadays to see feature length animations, you expect them to laugh continually throughout the movie. I didn't say that I disliked the movie, infact I quite enjoyed it. I only said that it has been overhyped when there have been better ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 15:21, 13 October 2009 | Report This Post


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