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78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen 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 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Their journey to a lost world, where they encounter some strange, exotic and surprising characters, is filled with hilarity, emotion and wildly imaginative adventure.
For more about Up and the Up Blu-ray release, see Up Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 30, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Bob Peterson, Jordan Nagai, Delroy Lindo
Directors: Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
» See full cast & crew
Up Blu-ray Review
A spectacular, must-own release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 30, 2009
I'm unashamed to admit that Up wrecked me. It didn't earn a stalwart man-tear. It didn't make my lip quiver. It didn't even assault me with the usual warm-n-fuzzies. No, dear readers, it absolutely wrecked me. It's not often that I'm reduced to a pile of thirtysomething tears and sobering sniffles, but Pixar mainstays Pete Docter and Bob Peterson created such a touching tale, such a rousing adventure, such a gorgeous masterpiece that I was completely enraptured by everything that graced the screen. From an early, heart-wrenching glimpse into an old man's dashed hopes and hardened heart to his eventual embrace of something far greater than he ever imagined, Up is as much an emotional experience as an entertaining one; as much a multi-layered character study as a rewarding animated journey; as much a stirring story of love and loss as a thoughtful, nuanced examination of friendship and devotion. It doesn't just deserve a Best Animated Picture win at the Academy Awards, it deserves a spot amongst the year's Best Picture nominees.
Before I exhaust all the glowing adjectives in my vocabulary, I suppose it's best to start at the beginning. After earning critical and box office success with the help of several unlikely animated heroes -- a box of aging toys, a bumbling ant, a pair of closet-haunting monsters, a neurotic fish, a family of outlawed crime fighters, a cocky race car, and a cooking rat -- Pixar proudly introduces Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), a bitter widower who decides to relocate his house to a remote South American locale using tens of thousands of helium balloons. His motivation? A decades-old promise he made to his late wife, Ellie (Elie Docter), when they first fell in love. Of course, things don't quite go according to plan. Carl finds a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai) stuck on his now-soaring front porch, inadvertently flies into a storm, lands short of his intended destination, and meets an elderly recluse named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) who just so happens to be his childhood role model. But before he has the chance to get his bearings, Carl finds himself at odds with the arrogant explorer, building a genuine relationship with Russell, and rediscovering the man his wife always knew him to be.
Up opens with a staggering sequence that introduces Carl and Ellie, follows their budding relationship through childhood and adolescence, finds them sharing vows at the altar and, eventually, growing old together. But as heartfelt as it all is, it never grows saccharine. Carl and Ellie struggle with finances, reevaluate their dreams, learn they can't have children, and discover that Ellie has cancer. Inevitably, we watch as Carl attends the funeral of his one true love, roots himself in his house, and reacts accordingly when land developers want to take it away from him. It's in these opening scenes that Up establishes its identity, its thematic power, and its poignancy. Carl isn't merely a grumpy hermit, he's a sympathetic romantic; a lovelorn victim of circumstance whose brow furrowed the moment his cornerstone was ripped from his grasp. His whirlwind adventure doesn't reek of rip-roaring randomness or Saturday-morning silliness, it's bolstered by very real, very familiar pain that drives him forward and pushes him to be a better man. His South American quest isn't about selfish pursuits or cantankerous whimsy, it's about love; the kind of love that burrows deep and never relents; the sort of love that haunts the hearts of widows and widowers the world over. To their credit, Docter and Peterson spend just enough time with the events that lead Carl to Paradise Falls, just enough time with his wife, that everything that follows pulses with a palpable heartbeat. Carl's simple glances at a picture frame will bring tears to your eyes. His desperate attachment to his house is more about holding onto Ellie than a home. His adventure is driven by his fading memories, not a cluster of balloons or a pack of chatty dogs.
Despite a great many challenges, Docter and Peterson manage to flawlessly transition Up's tragic opening into an undeniably entertaining second act. They tap into a variety of rather standard gimmicks -- an awkward kid, talking animals, midair battles, and physics-defying hilarity, among others -- but infuse each one with enough patented Pixar magic to ensure the film never falters or fails. Russell is as endearing as young characters come: his intense curiosity, short attention span, and fledgling self esteem are masterfully paired with Carl's embittered disposition, making the pair's relationship one both young and old viewers will enjoy watching unfold. The floating house is a character in its own right: a rickety incarnation of Ellie and a symbol of Carl's undying love, it's used to remarkable effect throughout the tale to evoke regret, heartache, and longing. Muntz is a complicated, believable antagonist: a washed up icon determined to prove his worth no matter the personal cost. Even Dug and Kevin, the film's oh-so-helpful animals, are welcome additions to the narrative. They provide infectious comic relief, sure, but they also highlight the mystery and wonder of Carl and Russell's jaunt through the jungle. Together, these seemingly disconnected elements work brilliantly, granting Up even more depth, spirit, and fun than it already has.
As far as I'm concerned, Up is a triumph for all involved. It makes other animated films look positively childish, yet will win the hearts of kids and adults. I'm not sure how young children will handle some of the film's weightier scenes -- despite the semi-silent nature of the Carl and Ellie montage, my then-four-year-old son clearly understood everything that was happening to the couple, infertility and all -- but it has plenty to offer families and animation fans alike. While I certainly won't guarantee you'll adore Up as much as I did, I can safely say the film will be remembered for quite some time. More than an animated adventure, more than a heartwarming story, more than a colorful trek, it's the best animated film of the year, one of my favorite animated films of all time and, hands down, one of the best films of 2009. It's a must-see classic in every regard.
Up Blu-ray, Video Quality
Up brushes against the stratosphere with a dazzling, picture-perfect 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that boasts more breathtaking spectacle and stunning scenery in a single shot than many high definition presentations deliver in two hours. Pixar's palette simply spills off the screen. Color and contrast are impeccable, black levels are bottomless, and detail is extraordinary. Note the string on every balloon, the tiny grooves in Carl's face, the soft feathers that adorn Kevin's back, the rust and grime caked on Muntz' dirigible, individual strands of Dug's fur, distant leaves and flowers in the jungle, weathered shingles on a high-altitude rooftop, the fuzz on the tennis balls beneath Carl's walker. Need I go on? Definition is sharp, fine textures are crisp and refined, and artificial nonsense like edge enhancement is MIA. Moreover, the technical transfer is spotless. That's right, you won't find an artifact or band once you depart from the disc's main menu, and noise is non-existent. The Blu-ray edition of Up represents everything high definition has promised its adopters since the very beginning. Animation enthusiasts and videophiles of all ages will be ecstatic with the results.
Up Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney has once again paired a striking video transfer with an equally jaw-dropping, exceedingly faithful, and incredibly involving DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. It takes a lot to turn my head in the middle of a movie, but I found myself laughing maniacally at the sheer complexity and quality of the sound pouring out of my speakers. Dialogue never wavers, voices are never lost in the mix, and vocal clarity and weight is astounding. The LFE channel gets a full workout as well, dutifully supporting the slightest thooms and the most abrupt booms Carl and Russell's adventure has in store. The rear speakers are just as active, injecting enough environmental ambience and aggressive directional effects into the proceedings to make soundfield immersion an absolute cinch. Moreover, pans are velvety, dynamics are resonant, and Carl's bunched balloons make their presence known at every turn. With jungles, caverns, and living rooms that sound so fantastic, so utterly natural, it's tough to imagine how the track could be improved. Make no mistake, Disney has churned out another sonic standout; one that's sure to elicit wide eyes and hushed whoas from every member of the family.
Up Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 4-disc Blu-ray edition of Up boasts a strong supplemental package, 100% high definition video content, and several exclusive features (one of which is an excellent Picture-in-Picture video commentary). The bundle also includes a standard DVD disc and a Digital Copy disc for families and on-the-go Pixar purists.
Up Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What more can I possibly say? Up isn't just an exceptional animated film, it's one of the best films of the year. Pixar continues to prove its filmmakers thoroughly understand character, story, humor, and sentiment, and are able to wield them as effortlessly as their animators wield magnificent design and animation. I cannot recommend Up enough. As for its 4-disc Blu-ray release, Disney has pulled out all the stops to produce a perfect... let that sink in... perfect audio/video presentation. And even though the set's captivating supplemental package falls a bit short of Disney's best, it still delivers the goods, providing fans with a bounty of high-quality bonus material worthy of the film's instant-classic status. Like the film itself, I cannot recommend this release enough. Frankly, it deserves a hallowed spot on every Blu family's shelves.
Up: Other Editions
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