Despite Pixar's pristine cinematic reputation, Up surprised me. It is Pixar's most touching, heartwarming film. It is saccharine, to a point. Where most films have a heart and a head, rarely both, Up also has humour, depth and gasp, something dark lurking underneath.
If you've seen the previews, then you probably know that Up is about a grumpy old man, Carl, his balloon-aided flying house and Russell, a kid he befriends. They go on an adventure, spurred by Carl's desire to reach what is known as Paradise Falls, an impossibly exotic South American destination that he once yearned to visit with a wife no longer with him. In the films main highlight, a truly tender, inspired flashback sequence, we see the love between Carl and Elie (his wife) grow from when they first meet. The segment is in near silence (a technique perfected by Pixar with last year's masterpiece Wall-E), juxtaposed with short vignettes of a wonderful life, full of love and care. I don't know how Pixar do it, but this encapsulates the films drive – the nagging realization of a dream unfulfilled when someone is no longer with you. As dry as this may sound, the film never loses sight of the fact that it is an animated cartoon and children will be in attendance, and all of these somber moments are sprinkled with wit, though it's not really on par with some of Pixar's finest offerings.
Up's colourful palette puts to shame the Wachowski brothers infamous, empty, candy floss misfire Speed Racer and is a reminder that even in animation, no one element of film making is less important than the other. I have deliberately tried to avoid the inevitable question that every Pixar aficionado asks with each new release. Is this better than their last effort? (Not really, blame Wall-E but don't hold it against him!) Have they raised the bar for animation, storytelling and the ability to perfectly package an entertainer as something more, something profound (Yes!). Yet these questions are quickly becoming irrelevant because each Pixar film is in itself a labour of love, uniquely so.
Perhaps what pleases the most is how universal something so entirely unsellable and mundane turns out. This is after all the story of a geriatric and his humane, adventurous friendship with an Asian American kid, with talking dogs, who don't really talk the way dogs have always done in cartoons. The animation is expectantly fantastic, with the image of Carl in his balloon-home maneuvering through skyscrapers and eventually leaving them behind becoming a metaphor of finding a deep rooted purpose in a material world. The script is virtuous and full of rich context – all throughout the screening I attended children could be heard asking meaningful questions about death, mortality and helium filled balloons, but also giggling and laughing when appropriate, and holding their breath during the many spirited thrill sequences. We've always had the concept of family films – parents and their children going to the movies. Up gives grandparents the chance of also tagging along. - Faizan Rashid