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Directed by Pete Docter.
Written by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter.
Starring the voices of Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson and Christopher Plummer.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  6/13/09


I think it's safe to say that Pixar has this digitally-animated feature film thing figured out.  In looking at the company's body of work over the last dozen years, all of the films have been decent (even if I didn't love "Cars" or "Finding Nemo") and with "Toy Story 2", "WALL-E" and now "Up", I've been really impressed with how well Pixar makes movies, not just family films.

In "Up", the first ten minutes of the film set up the life of 78-year-old widower Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner), and even that tragedy is told so very well with not a word of dialogue after Carl marries his sweetheart Ellie.  In present-day California--this is not mentioned by name but there are clues visible to those living in the Bay Area--Carl is living in the same house he's lived in for years, but naturally contractors are moving in on the surrounding land and they want Carl outta there.  One day, after an accident strips the house of the mailbox Carl and Ellie added years ago, Carl decides he has had enough...and, making good on a promise to take Ellie to South America, he strings together thousands of helium balloons and ties them to his roof, and just like that, the balloons lift Carl's old home out of the projects and into the sky...with a Cub Scout-like stowaway named Russell (Jordan Nagai) standing scared on the porch when the house gets airborne.  The odd couple adventure their way south and encounter loads of trouble along the way.

"Up" isn't as--for lack of a better term--fantastic as some of the other dynamic plots that Pixar has come up with in their films, like talking cars, the secret lives of toys or even a rat who can cook.  Although there are some fantasy elements once Russell and Carl get to South America, they are grounded in some real-world concepts and borrow heavily from movies like, say, "Star Wars" or "Planet of the Apes" in telling their story of a madman (voiced by Christopher Plummer) who has been searching for a mystical peacock for the last 70 years.  That's all to say that "Up" is like some of the other films I have seen this year in that it essentially takes an idea you know fairly well (although it is disguised well in the balloon house concept) and just does a solid job of presenting the material.  The voice work is solid, the score is solid, the animation is solid, and even in 3-D, it was good but the 3-D work wasn't eye-popping.  The emotional moments in the first ten minutes are very well told, but the film's final 20 minutes was not a major highlight.

In fact, I thought all of this, and I'm an sounded like the kids in my theater enjoyed themselves (talking dogs push the film's second half for kids), but I wonder if they really loved "Up."  Maybe they were amused by a fistfight between two 80-year-olds; maybe they were amused by the antics of Russell, since he is a young boy.  But, while I'm sure most young children would like "Up", I'm not sure if 8-year-olds and above would like the movie as much...I thought there was a decent amount of Carl and Russell walking around in the jungle pulling their house by a rope, which might be yawn territory for a kid.

As good as the last few Pixar films have been, none of them has touched "Toy Story 2" yet...which, is fine, since "Toy Story 3" is the Pixar entry due next June. 

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 06/13/09