Droid goes “UP” and likes where it takes him… SQUIRREL!

Pixars UP


The latest film from the Pixar brain trust, simply called ‘UP’, stars a grouchy old bloke and a fat asian kid.  Not two characters immediately associated with an animated kids movie.  But in much the same way they brought a huge personality to a small robot, or made the culinary dreams of a rat deliciously intoxicating, these two unlikely characters capture the imagination.


 Recently widowed Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), a grumpy old coot is about to be evicted from the house he shared with his wife and lifelong best friend, Ellie.  They met in childhood when they dreamt of following in the footsteps of their hero, disgraced adventurer Charles F. Muntz.  Their dreams made way for the realities of life, and remained unfulfilled.  When a rash act by Carl enables a land developer to take his home, he decides to make those dreams a reality.  He ties hundreds of helium balloons to his house and sets off for Paradise Falls, somewhere in South America, last known whereabouts of his hero, Muntz.

 A stowaway on this adventure is Russell (Jordan Nagai), a short, chubby Wilderness Explorer intent on earning the “assisting the elderly” badge that will see him promoted to Senior Wilderness Explorer and impress his absent father.




 Once they arrive at Paradise Falls, the action begins in earnest, with Carl and Russell encountering a strange, exotic and much sought after bird, a pack of talking dogs that include the outcast Dug (Bob Peterson) and a mysterious villain from the past.

It’s all very enjoyable, but the real heart of the film is in the opening scenes.  We meet Carl, shy and quiet, and Ellie, exuberant and tomboyish, as kids, and in a very effective sequence we see their life together.  There is no dialogue in this sequence; it’s not needed, as we understand everything we need to know about their life and the reasons why their dreams of adventure remained unrealized.  These scenes really are brilliant filmmaking, and on a different level to the rest of the movie.

 Although the director, Pete Docter, who made the very similar feeling ‘Monsters Inc.’, injects the film with a lot of fun, colourful characters and exciting action, it’s easy to feel a little let down that, after the impressive opening scenes, ‘UP’ settles into a formulaic story when it could’ve been much more.




Despite that, there are themes explored in this film, like an absentee father, unrealized dreams or moving on with life after a loved one passes away, that other animated films such as the mildly diverting Ice Age or the abysmally awful Shrek don’t even attempt.  These themes set the Pixar films apart.  They bring an emotional resonance to their films and allow them to connect to the audience at a deeper level than if they were only empty action and gags.

Up is a film of quality, which never quite achieves the level of brilliance that the opening scenes promise.  But it’s an infinitely superior entertainment than most other kids movies.



Side Note 

I saw this in 3D and am yet to be fully convinced of the process.  Particularly on a screen that isn’t IMAX size.  The picture appears darker and it strains the eyes.  I’m not sure the process significantly changes the viewing experience for the better.  Which begs the question, Why?  I suppose it’s good for the Box Office and makes it harder to pirate, but is it better for the cinemagoer?  Especially when you have to pay an extra charge on top of already lofty cinema prices.


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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

12 responses to “Droid goes “UP” and likes where it takes him… SQUIRREL!”

  1. Xiphos says :

    Nice review Droid I still don’t have a desire to see this but good work.

    Becareful about dissing 3D or else all the Cameronites will be up in arms and will seek out your scalp.

  2. Droid says :

    I think it’s probably more the 3D on the regular cinema screen that’s the difference. I saw Beowulf on IMAX and thought it was great and didn’t really have a problem with it. Also, I think Zemeckis knows how to use 3D a bit better.

    Avatar will be interesting. I’m going to try to see it on IMAX so hopefully the 3D will work.

  3. koutchboom says :

    been much more?

    Yes the opening scenes where great, I’m just wondering where you think the story could have gone that would have been much more?

  4. koutchboom says :

    Also the 3-D in this movie, if you noticed I took off my glasses from time to time and realized that what I thought was 3-D was just damn good animation. I did see it on a big ass screen, not IMAX though and not the biggest screen in the theater.

    • Droid says :

      I’m not sure what you mean here. You did see it in 3D? And you did see it on a big screen?

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah I saw it in 3-D, on a big screen, but not the biggest screen at that theater. I was just saying, that I took of my 3-D glasses (sorry I don’t wear glasses normally so it sounded like I did) just to look at what the animation looks like without the 3-D glasses on. I took them off during what I thought where 3-D sequences and realized that it wasn’t 3-D at just really good animation.

        I’m still not sold on the 3-D. I don’t know why I keep seeing films in 3-D, just did the Toy Story double bill. While its cool its nothing amazing. I don’t think it takes away from the color and viewing of the film though, like Ebert always says.

      • Droid says :

        Yeah, I did the same thing one or two times. During the scenes when they were dragging the house, I took off the glasses and it didn’t look like it was in 3D. The next shot went blurry and was obviously 3D. But when you take off the glasses the first thing you notice is how bright the image is and how vivid the colours are. It looked a lot better. I want to watch it again in 2D.

  5. Droid says :

    I mean once it got to Paradise Falls it became a more standard kids animation. Goofy characters (the bird and the dogs), lots of chases and action. Don’t get me wrong, it was well done and very enjoyable, but part of me felt a bit let down that it became that and not “something” else.

    • koutchboom says :

      I see what you are saying, but I mean did you want some character study on being an old depressed man? It really is the kids version of Gran Torino.

      • Droid says :

        I realise it’s a kids flick, and to be honest, I don’t know what else I would want (hence the “something” in quotations), but I just had a feeling that, although I enjoyed the movie a lot, it could’ve been a true classic if it was a bit more substantial than chases and talking dogs. What that “substantial” is, i don’t know.

  6. koutchboom says :

    I see what you are saying. I mean I left this movie not totally swept away with it, like I was with Wall-E. That’s why I was wondering why people loved it so much. I didn’t like how they don’t really explain the boys paternal situation, I figured out he’s parents are divorced and the mom dates. I think people are saying that the first 1/3 of the movie is whats amazing about the film.

    But there were a couple of scenes that were great in the 2nd half, like when he realizes she finished the book of their lives.

  7. Tom_Bando says :

    I thought it was pretty good, but agree they needed to get away from the chase/meet the baddie/fight w/ your ally/reconcile/chase etc routine. Dug the Dog was the best part.

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