Up (2009)

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“My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.”

The Scoop: 2009 PG, directed by Pete Docter & Bob Peterson and starring Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer & Jordan Nagai

Tagline: No tagline

Summary Capsule: Old fogey and young boy scout sail a house to South America. Kind of like that Monty Python short film, but with balloons instead of sails.

Justin’s rating: Second star to the right, and straight on to morning.

Justin’s review: The first ten minutes of Up, Pixar’s latest animated masterpiece, contains one of the most poignantly sad and moving silent stories I’ve ever seen on film.  Seriously, when people in the theater were bawling after mere minutes of ever having met the characters, you know you’re in for something special.  In this case, it’s the heart-wrenching tale of Carl (Ed Asner), an elderly widower who once shared a wonderful, if imperfect, life with his soulmate, and who is now seemingly destined for a nursing home and oblivion.

Pixar continues to intermix serious adult themes with a playful childlike tone, and it continues to work.  For how dark and depressing Up begins, it’s a necessary place to plop its lead character so when he chooses to fight for legacy and love in the remainder of his life, you desperately want him to rise out of that pit.

“Rise” is a good word, here — Carl’s fanciful Hail Mary is to fill his house full to the brim with helium balloons, and to lift off in search of that one last great adventure he never got to have in the first place.  The only problem is that he accidentally picks up a stowaway, a portly young lad named Russell, who is kind and gentle to the bone with a troubled secret.

The duo end up sailing to a faraway country that Carl knows from old newsreels, and subsequently embark upon a way to both get Russell home and Carl to move his now-barely-floating home to an ideal location.  There’s a few obstacles between here and there, of course, including a talking dog, a prehistoric bird, and a slightly nutters explorer.  The farther they progress, the more Carl struggles between loyalty to past memories and a growing attachment to newfound friends.

Up is, by far, one of the most adult movies that Pixar has ever done, and I’m not entirely sure how children have reacted to it (I will conduct a survey shortly, I’m sure).  But I have to give a compliment of the highest order that Pixar made a senior citizen, with big ears and a tennis ball-clad walker, its main character.  Senior citizens aren’t sexy Hollywood stars, and if they show up in film it’s usually to play against type and either swear up a storm or talk about sex so we can find it gross.  But here… here a movie actually gives dignity to an age where that is scarce to be found.  Carl is, in many ways, a big kid who’s simply forgotten how to stay in touch with what fascinated him when he was younger.  I couldn’t help but get a bit teary-eyed myself as he clung desperately onto his house and keepsakes which were his only physical links to his dead wife.

It’s a funny movie, and has plenty of exciting chases and adventures to keep everyone satisfied.  But the quiet moments are where true brilliance exists in Up, and it absolutely shames the crappy big budget blowouts that littered the summer 2009 season with its perfection.

And that's how the bird flu epidemic began
And that’s how the bird flu epidemic began

Intermission!

  • The term ‘A113’ is the number of the courtroom, and can be found on the gold sign Carl sits next to while waiting to be called (Courtroom A113). A113 is a frequent Pixar in-joke based on one of the room numbers for the animation program at Cal Arts.
  • Dug’s ‘point’ pose, where his entire tail, back, and head is in a perfectly straight line, is an homage to the identical pose that Mickey’s dog, Pluto, often makes. Coincidently, Dug shares Pluto’s color scheme as well.
  • If Carl’s house was approximately 1600 square feet, and the average house weighs between 60-100 pounds per square foot, it weighs 120,000 pounds. If the average helium balloon can carry .009 pounds (or 4.63 grams), it would take 12,658,392 balloons to lift his house off the ground. (20,622 balloons appear on the house when it first lifts off.)
  • Certain elements of the story were obviously inspired by the classic adventure novel, The Lost World.
  • All characters are based upon circles and rectangles, except for the villains who are triangles.

Groovy Quotes

Dug: My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.

Dug: My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!

Carl Fredricksen: You’d better get up, Russell. Or else, the tigers will come and eat you.
Russell: Tigers don’t live in South America. Zoology.

Alpha: Now, you must wear the cone of shame.
Dug: [hangs head] I do not like the cone of shame.

Dug: Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, “I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.” Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.

Carl Fredricksen: I believe I made my position to your boss very clear.
Construction Foreman Tom: You poured prune juice in his gas tank.
Carl Fredricksen: Yeah, that was good.

Russell: A wilderness explorer is a friend to all, be it bird or fish or tiny mole!
Carl Fredricksen: That doesn’t even rhyme!
Russell: [offended] Yeah, it does!

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8 comments

  1. I dunno if it counts, but I’m 13 and I thought this movie was amazing. One of my favorite Pixar films. Up there with Finding Nemo (<– you see what I did there. HA.). I cried hysterically during the first 10 minutes. Pixar's never let me down!

  2. I am a 34 year old guy whose mom is battling with fibrymyalgia. I cried uncontrollably for the scene with the wife’s death. The theme of not being able to do everything one wants to do in life just affected me so much. This is an amazing movie, with how much it makes you feel for the characters and what they go through.

  3. “Up” has to be one of the best pixar movies that I have ever seen. The opening 10 minutes, Dug, Kevin… it was just fantastic. The thing that really got me though was a part near the middle.

    (Spoiler… you never know)

    This is one of the few (only?) disney/pixar movies I’ve ever seen where the child character has divorced parents. Not only are russel’s parent’s divorced, his dad’s new wife/girlfriend doesn’t want russel “bugging” his own dad. How many kids do any of us on the site know who have parent situations like russel’s? Divorce is never really mentioned in too many disney films. They kill off parents like it’s going out of style, but they never really deal with divorce. Fantastic movie.

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