Piling praise on Pixar's 'Up'

June 02, 2009|By BOB GARVER / Special to The Herald-Mail

I have this theory about Pixar Animation. It is my belief that they are in possession of a powder that contains the secret of making great movies. They keep this powder in an ordinary-looking can in their employee cafeteria. Every day, they take some of this powder and use it to make delicious fruit punch for their employees. Everybody gets a yummy treat, and then everybody makes great movies like "Up."

The most iconic image of the film is without a doubt the mode of transportation that the filmmakers have invented for the characters. That vehicle is a flying house supported by balloons. The balloons are multicolored and beautiful and so is the house itself. Put them together and you get one impressive-looking conveyance perfect for the adventure of a lifetime.

Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner) shared a love of adventure with his late wife. They always dreamed of traveling the world, starting with the beautiful Paradise Falls in South America. His wife even had a scrapbook full of blank pages for all the adventures they were going to take. Alas, Carl's job as a balloon salesman never made them enough money to go anywhere.


Now Carl is alone and everything annoys him. A Boy Scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai) is pestering Carl. Russell wants to help Carl so Russell can get a Helping the Elderly merit badge.

As it happens, Carl is moving from his home. On his last night, he ties several thousand balloons to his fireplace and sends them up the chimney, which causes the house to float. He's all set to steer his way to South America when Russell appears. Turns out he and Russell are going on the adventure together.

Together Carl and Russell fly the house through a storm and over a mountain, find a rare bird, take in a talking dog and do battle with a surprising adversary. They do it all with the balloons, string, the house, Carl's walker, and Russell's seemingly endless supply of chocolate. The protagonists may have a limited number of tools, but the filmmakers come up with a seemingly unlimited number of uses for them.

What will kids take away from the movie? They're sure to sympathize with Russell, and it won't take much for them to like Carl too. He's been depicted as grouchy in the ads, but the film explains early on how he got to be so grouchy. Kids will root for him to become his old, spirited self again. They'll find the animals adorable. The only detraction (if there is one) is that all the flying and dangling looks really fun and exciting. Parents, make sure the kids know not to try any of this at home.

"Up" is intelligent, imaginative, exciting, touching and funny. It is the best movie of 2009 so far. It's kind of monotonous to join other critics in pouring praise on Pixar. But, hey, everything they've done so far, including "Up," is great.

"Up" is rated PG for some peril and action. Its run time is 96 minutes.

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