Sadly, there aren’t enough superlatives in the English language with which to laud Up. This is quite simply the best movie of any genre to emerge in the past year. No small praise considering how I’ve long been adverse to “kids movies”, pegging them as being shallow, vapid, and simplistic - a personal preconception which Pixar mercifully shattered with 2004’s The Incredibles and 2008’s WALL-E, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that for all their acclaim as an animation studio, they are equally brilliant story tellers.
Up tells the story of Carl Fredricksen (Asner), who as a child meets Ellie, later to become the love of his life. Carl and Ellie find they share a common dream – to one day visit Paradise Falls, a mysterious tropical oasis in South America made famous in vintage newsreels chronicling the exploits of explorer/adventurer Charles Muntz (Plummer). Life, however, manages to get in the way as the two grow up, get married, experience the pain of miscarriage, and eventually grow old, so much so that father time catches up on Ellie, leaving Carl a widower. All of this is conveyed with little dialogue in a masterful sequence that had the audience, old and young alike, sniffling throughout.
If you’re thinking this isn’t the usual stuff you see in “kids movies” you’re right. But all credit is due to Pixar and the directorial and writing team of Docter and Peterson for realising that children aren’t idiots, and can handle complex, often tragic stories, if conveyed in the proper manner. It’s a refreshing change from the over-protective mentality that once saw all hints of violence edited out of Warner Bros/Looney Tunes cartoons.
In Up, characters bleed, there’s implied murder, and it’s all counter-balanced with some of the most delightfully twisted humor that’s as inspired as anything the Zucker brothers ever came up with. The story literally had me careening from being misty-eyed to laughing heartily, frequently in the span of minutes. Faced with forced relocation to a retirement home, Carl opts for one final gambit, to fly his house down to Paradise Falls with the aid of a multitude of helium-filled balloons affixed to the roof of his house. Along for the ride is Russell (Nagai), a Wilderness Scout seeking to add a merit badge to his collection. Eventually the duo are complimented by Dug (voiced by co-director and writer Peterson), a dopey derelict dog equipped by the now-aged Muntz with a translator collar that converts dog thoughts to English.
Like WALL-E, Up manages to imbue its characters with depth and humanity, while at the same time tell a story that is mature, delightful, and most of all, terrifically funny. In an era when Hollywood seems only capable of reboots and do-overs, Up is a refreshing stroke of original brilliance.
EXTRAS ★★ On the plus side, Up looks great on the hi-def screen, even in 2D (the theatrical release was in 3D). But (and there's always a but!) ... for such a great film – one of Team Screenjabber's favourites of 2009 – the extras package, particulalry for a Blu-ray release, is a huge disappointment. In fact, the extras on the disc we saw were pretty much identical to the single-disc DVD release. Along with the audio commentary from co-writers/co-directors Docter and Peterson comes Cine-Explore, in which artwork and clips pop up, picture-in-picture style. Then there's the Partly Cloud short that played before Up in cinemas (again, also looking great in 2D). There's a pretty funny "all new original" short called Dug's Special Mission, which feels more like a deleted scene from the film. There's a 22-minute documentary called Adventure's Out There, about the filmmakers' fact-finding trip to the Tepui Mountains in Venezuela (that's in South America). There's an "alternate scene", called The Many Endingsa of Muntz, in which the filmmakers talk about their various ideas for despatching the "villain" of the piece. There's also an Easter Egg, called The Egg, which is a two-minute featurette about plans for Kevin's egg to be the "fountain of youth" that were dropped from the film. Our guess is that once digital 3D Blu-ray players hit the market this year, Up will get a proper, 3D release.• UP is now available on Disney Blu-ray, Disney DVD and Disney Combi pack