As of its release date, May 29, this animated film stands as the best reviewed movie of 2009. It scored a 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
This Disney-Pixar creation is their 10th. Their previous box office smash WALL-E (2008) also won huge critical acclaim. There were some critics like Peter Travers who were so in love with it that they felt it should have been nominated at the Oscars for Best Picture.
WALL-E did win many accolades, but it's rare that people believe a cartoon of all things should be nominated for the most coveted of movie awards. Most people think cartoons, which are generally aimed toward children, are not to be taken seriously.
Yes, they can be blockbusters to which you can take your whole family, but when it comes time at the end of the year for serious awards, cartoons are to be pushed aside, relegated to lesser categories, and not given nearly as much weight.
Up until now, I might have tended to agree with that. That is until I saw Up, which has risen above all other movies I've seen not only this month but so far this year. I have not witnessed anything in the past six months as glorious, as inspired, as wonderful, as emotional, and as fun as this film, which needs not a drop of helium to be elevated to heights as high as the heavens.
The film is certainly a lock for the Best Animated Film Oscar. It's better than WALL-E, and that film easily took home the prize. WALL-E in fact was nominated for a total of six Oscars, which is the most nominations an animated film has ever received. It tied with the last, animated-record-holder Beauty and the Beast (1991), which became the first and only animated feature to be up for Best Picture.
Because of the tie, people thought WALL-E might become only the second film to achieve what that 1991 cartoon did, which is be included in the main Best Picture category, but it didn't. It instead got relegated to the Academy's conciliatory Best Animated Film category. Since the Academy started doling out that award in 2001, Pixar's films have dominated, and Up will certainly be no different, but, if it were up to me, Up would definitely be up for the Academy's Best Picture trophy.
The story involves an elderly man who basically turns his house into an airship by attaching a blimp-full of helium balloons to it, and the spirited adventure he undergoes with a Boy Scout to South America.
Ed Asner voices the character of Carl Fredricksen, a retired balloon salesman whose life story is actually as rich and as colorful as the floating orbs he sells. Yet, if you asked the short, square-jawed, old man, he would probably tell you that he's filled with much regret. Fredricksen never got to go on the trip he promised his wife Ellie.
First-time child actor Jordan Nagai brilliantly voices the character of Russell, a pudgy and very persistent boy scout who needs to help an elderly person in some capacity in order to get his final merit badge. Fredricksen doesn't want to be helped. He resists the young boy but starts to see in him qualities resembling his wife.
Credit must be given to writer and co-director Bob Peterson and his team of animators for bringing to the screen some amazing and absolutely funny characters like a cadre of cocky and confused canines of which Peterson voices one, as well as a big, flightless bird, which may or may not be a dodo. Of course, this wouldn't be a Disney movie if animals weren't along for the ride, and, yes, this is quite a ride.
It's a ride that at times invokes Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Fitzcarraldo (1982), or Wings (1927). It's impressive and impossible, and yet you buy it. You do so because the filmmakers pace such a great story with points of tomfoolery and ticklishness to points of heart and slight touches of humanity coming from cartoon objects that look like moving plush toys.
I must admit that the filmmakers had me crying for a cartoon character. They had me laughing at a geriatric fight and the different animal personalities. They had me on the edge of my seat for their soaring flying sequences.
Pixar had a short, animated film that preceeded the feature called Partly Cloudy about how storks deliver babies, which was equally excellent. That short like the feature both dealt with the theme of friendship and interpersonal connections and valuing that over whatever objects or circumstance that may get in the way.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated PG for some peril and action
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.