It never ceases to amaze me just how well Pixar make movies. Sure, they’ve had a couple of hiccups along the way (Cars; some may say Ratatouille) but their output has otherwise consistently been of the highest standard. Last year’s Wall-E was pretty darn awesome, but they have certainly equalled (or possibly surpassed) that wondrous tale with Up.

As with Wall-E, the best part of Up is the first act. The first 20 minutes or so are positively spellbinding, and could very well constitute the perfect short film in isolation. Devoid of dialogue, it’s an extended montage sequence that leaves most montages for dead.Up I’m not exaggerating when I say that Up had me next to tears within 15 minutes.

After such an incredible opening it’s hard for the film to maintain such a high quality of storytelling, but Up does pretty well. The story concerns elderly widower Charles Muntz, who one day finds that life has passed him by and he never set out on the adventures he dreamed of as a child. ‘Progress’ is closing in and it seems that the whole world’s turned against him. When he’s finally backed into a corner he does the only thing he can think of: sets out on the adventure he never had.

Along for the ride is the young, inexorable chatterbox by the name of Russell. Together they form a fairly traditional odd couple, even if the dislike is one-sided. It comes as no surprise that Charles learns to appreciate Russell by the end of the tale, but this predictability hardly matters when the story’s in the hands of such master filmmakers.

Pixar continue to astound with their high standard of scripting. None of their films pander purely to kids, but are instead concerned with genuinely touching storytelling. So many rival animation companies have sprung into existence since Toy Story – it’s incredible how many of them have paled in comparison to Pixar.

Do I even need to say that the animation is beautiful? Cars was probably the only film of Pixar’s that failed to take advantage of the technology they’ve long since mastered, but Up is stunning. It seems that digital animation was made purely to give life to a million multicoloured balloons.

Ultimately, Up is a brilliantly effective exploration of mortality, and how what were once hopes and dreams can one day turn into distant memories. Tinged with regret, it’s one of the saddest films in recent years to have followed a central character in their later years (as was Is Anybody There?).

A heart-warming tale with a healthy dose of adventure, science fiction and action, Up proves that once again Pixar are still at the top of their game and at the head of the pack. The only flaw is that the best bits are at the start. Don’t let the 3D presentation, the fact that kids will love it or that it’s animated turn you off. Up is recommended to anyone who likes movies.

Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 16th September 2009
Hoopla Factor: 4.5 stars

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