Last Friday, I got a phone call from MovieStop – my new favorite store – and they told me they had a sale on Blu-ray movies; buy three get one free. I excitedly jumped at the opportunity, because if it’s one thing I really enjoy, it’s movies. My problem was only picking four movies. In the end, I got The Thomas Crown Affair (the Pierce Brosnan-Renee Russo version), Transformers (the first Michael Bay version), Tropic Thunder – Director’s Cut, and Up. Of those four, Up was considered my throwaway movie; I picked it up not knowing if I would like it or not. In fact, my intentions were to sell it to my sister-in-law after watching it; that’s how much I figured I wouldn’t like that movie.
So, on Saturday afternoon, I sat down with my usual weekend meal (pizza and the beverage of my choice), popped the movie into my PS3, and got ready to sit and see how long I’d last before taking it out and selling it away. After about 15 minutes, I came to the following conclusion:
Sorry, sis; you ain’t gettin’ this movie.
This movie was simply amazing on every conceivable level. The story was one part funny, one part sentimental, and one part whimsical. In other words, it caught my attention and didn’t let go.
The story is about a septuagenarian named Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), a widower who is mourning the loss of the love of his life which – in a masterful display of filmmaking – is depicted through the opening scenes of the movie with just images and music. There was no other audio there, and that helped make the images onscreen that much more powerful. He then meets a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who is trying to get an “Assisting the Elderly” badge so he can become a Senior Wilderness Explorer. Carl sends him away on a frivolous mission to find something called a “snipe” and he then has to deal with some contractors trying to buy his house. During an unfortunate incident with a mailbox, Carl is ordered to vacate his home and move into a retirement home. Instead, he gets the bright idea to turn his house into a makeshift dirigible. He takes a bunch of balloons, fill them with helium, and sets sail to a mysterious location nestled in South America called Paradise Falls. Once there, he plans on honoring the lifelong wish of his late wife. Russell inadvertently ends up tagging along, and they set off on an adventure that will shape their relationship for life. Along the way, they run into a colorful bird that is instantly named “Kevin” by Russell (even though it is revealed that he is, in fact, a she), a talking dog named “Dug” (Bob Peterson), and a disgraced explorer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) who appears with decent motives that turn sinister as the movie progresses.
The thing about Pixar is that they don’t choose voice actors to sell their movies; instead, they pick voice actors at a whim and let the movies sell themselves. This is a very good idea that helps to cement Pixar as a top-flight studio. In an interview, Ed Asner said that he had no qualms with signing up for the movie after he realized that the character of Carl looked nothing like him.
In Ed Asner, they picked a classic actor who brought a gruffy charm to Carl. Part of Carl’s character was based after Spencer Tracy and Asner’s own role as Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. They also gave his character a lot of consonants and short sentences to really drive the point home that Carl was transformed into a heartbroken, curmudgeon after his wife’s death.
Jordan Nagai was immediately celebrated as the voice of Russell, and that’s due to the fact that they actually chose a Japanese-American to play the role of an Asian-American character. the funny thing about his casting was that his brother went to the casting call, but Jordan just wouldn’t shut up…much like Russell doesn’t in this movie.
Christopher Plummer plays the former celebrated explorer Charles Muntz, and when the time for his big reveal kicks in, his voice reflects how the years of humiliation for this character has set him on a very dangerous path. His rage is very indicative of a man at the end of his rope, and Plummer pulls that off beautifully.
As I have mentioned ad nauseam, I love the music of the movies, and this was no exception. My new favorite composer is rapidly becoming Michael Giacchino; he has a gift of musical creativity that’s second to none. This score was no exception to that rule. His score effortlessly shifts from the Roarin’ Twenties (the newsreel music at the beginning) to thoughtful (Married Life), to action packed (Escape From Muntz Mountain) and everything in between. Giacchino won an Oscar for this movie, and it was well deserved; this score breathed even more life into this movie than was already there – and it was already a lot to begin with.
All in all, I can honestly say I was greatly impressed with this film. As a movie snob, I can’t help but to pick out errors when I see them and laugh at the fallacies that they create. I couldn’t do it with this one, though; this was a beautiful movie from beginning to end. It brought out a myriad of emotions from me: happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, and a calming sense of joy. For someone who is about as emotional as a rock, that’s saying something. This movie was one of the best of 2009, and I see why that was now. I give Up five dragon heads out of five, and I recommend running to get this as soon as possible. It is definitely a must buy.