In all honesty, I can’t help but smile when I see Up. Whether it’s watching it for the umpteenth time, seeing a commercial for it, or catching a glimpse of it through some other means, this movie really projects unabashed positivity. Whether it’s the fact that the movie is absolutely perfect, the characters are so well developed, the animation is so intricate and the story both compelling, fantastic and heart-breaking all at once, I can’t say for sure, but this is just one of those movies that gives such a feeling. I’ll go into more detail after the synopsis.
From Disney-Pixar comes Up, a comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 9-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. From the Academy Award-nominated director Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.), Disney-Pixar’s Up invites you on a hilarious journey into a lost world, with the least likely duo on Earth. Reach new heights and meet fantatsic friends like Dug, a dog with a special collar that allow him to speak, and Kevin, a rare 13-foot-tall flightless bird. Stuck together in the wilds of the jungle, Carl realizes that sometimes life’s biggest adventures aren’t the ones you set out looking for.
To be unmoved by Up is to be a robot, plain and simple. The movie opens with an absolutely heartbreaking wordless prologue, setting up what comes to be a rather emotional and charming story. It just so happens that the movie’s rather mature story falls under the guise of an utterly fantastic adventure story, a story that transports us from the safety of a comfortable house to an all-new dangerous world. How it unfolds itself moment by moment, there’s never an ounce of worry that the creators behind Up will drop the ball at any time, because they never stray from the core themes that drive the movie. Once again, Pixar presents an absolutely stunning movie, perfectly mixing story, gorgeous animation, and an emotional core that’s so raw and real. Up soars. It’s that simple.
There are only so many words in the English language and, as I struggle to find the right words to describe Up, I find myself at a loss. What can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? One of the highest-rated movies of the year, and a big performer during the summer season, Up is probably one of the first true “all ages” animated movies since…well…Wall-E. After each flick, I always find myself wondering how Pixar will be able to top their last effort, and they always manage to surprise me. The opening ten minutes to this movie, as we see Carl progress through life all the ups and down, is probably the best ten minutes of any movie this year. That surprised me, and also undoubtedly set the bar for Pixar’s next. Absolutely superb and flawless story-telling that is just unrivaled. Arguably considered the Blu-ray release of the year, Up is the film that all movie lovers, or regular joes looking for a solid movie, need to own this year. Yes, I said “need.”
While the main protagonist can be seen as the typical curmudgeon, there’s so much more to Carl then one can expect. He’s a hopeless romantic driven by such a deep pain, one so cleverly camouflaged in Up, but one that also grounds the film. Carl’s very real and deep pain keeps the fantastic elements from seeming like something out of typical Saturday morning cartoon. And this isn’t the first time Pixar has used real emotion and poignancy to ground an incredible tale, but it’s never felt so harrowing. Carl’s South American trip isn’t one final hurrah, but one of selfless pursuits, to finally do what he always wanted to do with his late wife. It’s poetic and deep, making Carl feel more three-dimensional and real than the vast majority of live-action movies released in 2009. His devotion to his wife, be it expressed through words or a simple glance, is both tragic and heartwarming, endearing and haunting. Yet, for all of this, Pixar knows how to balance it so it doesn’t come across as overwrought and manipulative, but human and real. And that, simply, is what drives this movie. Humanity and character.
I realize this review is probably all over the place, touching on what seem to be random aspects of the movie here and there, but there’s a reason for that. When there’s a movie as absolutely perfect as Up, it can be considerably difficult to focus on one thing when there’s so much to love. There’s just so much to take in, and so much more to discover after each viewing. Pixar really fires on all cylinders here, making sure every little thing hits it off as it should. Whether it’s the pudgy side-kick or talking animals, it all works swimmingly here. Even the plot, as loosely described in the synopsis above, is simple yet complex. And, trust me, there’s so much I haven’t touched upon yet. There’s the heart-breaking metaphor of the house, the brilliant homages to the old film serials of the 1930s and adventure films of the 1950s, the artistry on display, the way everything comes together, and just so much more. Seriously, I could ramble on and on, but I’ll spare you.
I know I won’t be the only one to say this, but Up is a masterpiece, one you’ll want to revisit it time and time again. I know that’s already been said over and over this year, countless times, but I feel the need to hammer that point home. Movies sometime slip away from the audience, especially when word of mouth is so overpowering, resulting is many people just scoffing at it and passing it over. I hope my rambling, unfocused review of the movie helps demonstrate just how much Up succeeds on so many different levels. I seriously cannot find a single fault with this movie. Not a one. And, good lord, there’s so much more that I haven’t even touched upon yet! Perhaps some won’t be a finely tuned to Up as I was, but I guarantee this is an unforgettable film. It moved me, thrilled me, entertained me, and left a mark that will remain for some time. A fantastic all-ages adventures with so much heart, Up will remain arguably the hallmark movie of 2009. An absolute must-see, especially on Blu-ray, Up reminds us how movies should be made and how deeply they can affect us. Without a single doubt, Up is an Absolutely Must See movie that deserves a spot in everyone’s collection.
They’ve done it again! Much like with last year’s release of Wall-E, Disney has released yet another Blu-ray title that truly rises to the top. Packed to the brim with special features, a stunning main feature, and ridiculously beautiful audio/video specs, Up can easily be certified as the “must-have” for the upcoming holiday season. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Looking first at the audio and video components for this release, is it any surprise that this title deserves high marks across the board? For video, the MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer is flawless. Colors are vibrant, blacks are deep, the depth and detail is utterly mind-blowing, there’s not a weak spot to be found. It’s absolutely stunning how rich the video transfer is, how every little detail, every little spec, can be seen. If you’re looking for a release to show off the visual capabilities of your Blu-ray home entertainment system, you got it here. Just as impressive, and worthy of boasting, is the solid Master Audio 5.1 DTS-HD track. Dialogue is perfect, never wavering or lost in the onscreen actions, with clarity as crystal as can be. The sound mix is stellar, with everything in perfect balance. Whether a boisterous action scene or a contemplative one, the mix never falters. Not once. Like the video, there’s nary a weak spot to be had. Solid work, Disney.
And now the all-important bonus content! Given this is a massive four-disc collection, there must be plenty of bonus content spread about, right? Well, yes there is! But, as noted on the packaging, two discs in this collection house a DVD copy of the film along with a Digital Copy, leaving only two discs worth of actual Blu-ray content. Thankfully, the content featured on these two discs is quite impressive.
Let’s start things off with the Cine-Explore Commentary, with Director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson providing an extensive and detailed Pictures-in-Picture video commentary. Laced with a variety of storyboard, concept art, early design work, the whole nine yards, Docter and Peterson manage to provide a thoughtful and frank look at the production of Up. A definite must-see extra, preferably the first one you fire up after watching the movie. Afterwards we get a nice 22 minute featurette “Adventure is Out There!” discussing further production aspects of the movie. A host of different creative team members stop by to discuss how this movie came together in nearly every way. A nice add-on, of sorts, to the picture-in-picture commentary.
Moving on, the release also comes with two shorts, “Partly Cloudy” and “Dug’s Special Mission.” While “Partly Cloud” is the hilariously heartwarming animated short that played before Up during the film’s theatrical run, “Dug’s Special Mission” is an all-new short. It’s a fun little short that viewers, especially the younger ones, will get a kick out of. Dug was one of the breakout characters of Up (“Squirrel!” – need I say more?), and this little shorts takes full advantage.
Up next is “The Many Endings of Muntz,” a quick look at the difficult task of handling the demise of the film’s main antagonist, including some different ideas on how it might have been handled. Similarly, we also get an alternate take on “Married Life,” the absolutely stunning silent opener to the film. Different ideas are looked at and explored as this featurette ganders a the development of said opener.
A selection of production featurettes, listed under the “Documentaries” heading in the bonus features section, covers a host of different production aspects of the movie. Prominent aspects of the movie are touched upon here, including a look at including our hero Carl, his sidekick Russell, Muntz’s dog pack, Kevin, Carl’s house, the film’s use of balloons and Muntz’ dirigible, and the amazing film score by Michael Giacchino. The seven featurettes add up to a satisfying full-length documentary that perfectly companion to the commentary and featurettes already included.
Wrapping things up, the Blu-ray extras also include a BD-Live activity game called “Global Guardian Badge Game,” A collection of Up promotional spots, along with two theatrical trailers. As previously noted, a Digital Copy and standard DVD version of the film are also included in this four-disc set. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for some easter eggs on this release!
So what are my final thoughts on Up? Well, looking at both the movie itself and this stacked four-disc release, it’s a no-brainer. Up has it all, on every level. The movie itself is just brilliant, the bonus features are well worth checking out, and the audio/video quality is nearly impossible to beat. There’s nary a crack to be found here, not a single one. Pixar continues to churn out some of the absolutely best films to hit the big screen, able to do what seems so impossible for others – tell a full, complete story. By not shortchanging a single thing, be it characters, the story, design work, anything, Pixar continues to show how movies are supposed to be made. Considering everything in this lovely package, Up is a definite Must Own, no question about it. I seriously cannot see a single reason for anyone – anyone – to pass up this movie. Go see Up if you haven’t already. This movie deserves to be experienced time and time again.
Up is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD.