Movie Review: Up

Are you ready for another more-or-less plotless (and purposely spoiler-less) review? This weekend, I saw the new Disney Pixar animated feature Up (which I keep typing as UP and should therefore be officially changed) about an old man and his Wilderness Adventurer (read: boy scout) friend floating a house to South America with balloons. It only gets better from there.

If you’re going to see this movie, and I think you should, make sure to see it in the theater. And make sure that theater has it in 3-D. So maybe 3-D stuff is for five-year-olds (particularly five-year-olds in 1989). And maybe you’ll (read: I’ll) get distracted by the glasses on your nose to the point of insanity. Still: worth it. The movie even started with an animated short called Partly Cloudy about a cloud creature making baby bundles for a stork, but the babies kept being things like eels, sharks, etc. (YouTube it.)

Maybe you’re planning to see this movie but you want to avoid the children. Yeah, I didn’t think of that when I went to a theater in Park Slope (babytown) on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The parked Mr. Softee within fifteen feet should’ve been a hint. Anyway, when I looked out from the back row, I could only see adult heads occasionally because the rest of the seats were filled with kids. It didn’t ruin my buzz, though, because the old (and fairly dingy theater) plus the 3-D glasses (plus the popcorn, etc., etc.) meant I was basically a Kool-Aid mouth and one sticky hand away from being my six-year-old self. I’m not sure if it was the 3-D experience or the quality of the movie (or the hippie parenting style of Park Slope parents), but these kids were amazingly well behaved and silent during the movie. It was better than almost every recent higher-rated movie experience, and do you want to know why? Kids don’t have cell phones (mostly). Kids are happy to escape for two hours in a movie. Kids can just enjoy themselves for a little while without ruining everyone’s experience with selfishness. (That’s not even true.)

What? Oh yeah, the movie. So the trailers and posters have been particularly vague, and for good reason. The plot takes twists and turns and keeps the audience guessing the entire time. I won’t spoil it at all, but the first twenty minutes, which served as background to the old man’s life, was the best part of the entire movie for me. The neighborhood (meant to exist in the ’50s, I assume) was uncanny and nostalgic and just beautiful. I wanted a whole movie of just the background story. Disney Pixar is all about setting precedents, and maybe I just haven’t seen an animated movie in a theater in a while, but this was breath-taking.

I read an article about the lack of female characters in animated movies (besides princesses), and I was shocked to see a spunky, adventure-seeking little girl pop up, thus stealing the show. Like other Disney Pixar films, the movie dealt with real-life issues in a relatable way for children. I was especially drawn to the character of the old man, but the chubby Asian Wildnerness Adventurer, Russell, was good for kids to see. He was an eager and caring animal-lover with daddy issues. (Who ate a lot of chocolate, but I suppose we can let that slide since he was otherwise well developed even if slightly stereotypical. But for being fat not Asian, which is, um, a step in the right direction?) The movie managed to draw empathy for the characters in a short time, and I’m not saying I cried four times throughout the movie, but I am saying that I cried no less than three.

Just like any good animated movie, the jokes were funny for kids and adults. Despite the two human characters being the main concentration at first, the movie transitions our interest for the last half of the movie into more comfortable animal-love. There is a large toucan-like bird who squawks in everyone’s face and loves chocolate. There are dogs with technologically-advanced collars that help relay their thoughts, and you KNOW that’s funny (which is why dog thoughts and dog talking have been in films for at least 1,000 years). The main dog, Dug, was extremely quotable because his thoughts were child-like (dog-like?) in their sincerity. (“My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you.”) I probably shouldn’t have to say this since, you know, it’s animated, but you’ll probably have to suspend a lot of belief and not question anything to get through it. Unfortunately, when movies use realistic human characters and not-talking animals, we tend to expect a certain amount of believability, but it just doesn’t happen here. In a good way, because it made the adventure more exciting and suspenseful even if nonsensical.

So go for the animation. Or if you miss your grandpa. Or if you were a chubby Asian boy scout in need of a father figure. Or if you just want to see an awesome girl character who should have her own movie. (Let’s start writing letters.) I give this movie a 92 out of 100, and my ratings are really important and scientific.