Up (2009) Review

Up (2009) Director: Pete Docter

A house is floating in the air, lifted by balloons. A dog, a boy and an old man hang beneath on a garden hose. "UP!" is written in the top right corner.


I found Up to be a charming, delightful, bittersweet Pixar/Disney animated film. Director Pete Docter started working on this story as early as 2004, building the idea for a story of disillusionment in Venezuela. This was the first Pixar release in Disney Digital 3-D. It received a host of Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, making it the second nomination for Best Picture for an animated picture (second to Beauty and the Beast in 1991).

The film tells the story of Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner who appeared in various reputable television shows). As a young man he is interested in adventure (he reads about an adventurer named Muntz – voiced by Christopher Plummer) and he yearns to visit Venezuela to see Paradise Falls and a rare exotic bird. It tells the backstory of his courtship and blossoming relationship with his wife, and their tragedy that she is unable to get pregnant so they do not have children. In another tragically sad moment, as they age, she suddenly dies. Carl lives alone in his house while his city starts building up around his old house. One day, in order to avoid being forced into a retirement home, he ties a large number of balloons to his old house and he floats away over the city, with the goal of reaching Paradise Falls as he and his wife had always planned while she was alive. However, a young “wilderness explorer” (another way of saying “boy scout”) sneaks on board his house and they fly together to Venezuela, despite Carl’s hesitance with the boy. They find the exotic bird and are led on an adventure to protect the bird from a hunter (who turns out to be Muntz) searching for the bird that they have called “Kevin.” Carl has to choose between his house and the memories of his wife, or saving “Kevin.” In the end, Carl lets go of his old life and embraces his new friendship with the “wilderness explorer” named Russell

Michael Giacchino’s score for the film is delightful and most excellent. He also composed the scores for a number of contemporary films, as well as for the video games, Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. The appearance of Carl Fredrickson in the film was based on the elder Spencer Tracy. The character of Muntz is loosely based on Howard Hughes and Errol Flynn.

Up is a sentimental, tearjerker that is both touching and funny. It is a charming family film that is a rare example of cinematic simplicity done right. It is an enjoyably innocent film in our contemporary climate -yet another victory for Pixar! The idea of “up” refers at once to the elevation of Carl’s house, yet it also points to the upward direction of Carl’s life. Things are headed up as he decides to embrace a new adventure, while still honoring the memory of his late wife. It is a touching film that is also hopeful. The concept for the film is an unfinished love story, or perhaps of a man who loses something, but gains a new perspective through adventure and a more hopeful disposition.

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