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Wick's Review

Created Jun 13, 2009 06:54PM PST • Edited Jun 23, 2019 02:02PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    A high flying bird-of-paradise, this brilliant movie enters the Pixar pantheon by delivering equal measures of LOL comedy, enlightened human insight (canine too), and strong moral values. Movies get no better.

    Up’s cowriters and codirectors aren’t newcomers to this kind of lighthearted tour de force. Pete Doctor wrote Toy Story, Toy Story 2, WALL·E and additionally directed Monsters, Inc., while Bob Peterson demonstrated his animal-loving chops by writing Ratatouille and Finding Nemo. A triple threat, Peterson even voices Up’s Dug the Dog, shown here in the Cone of Shame.

    An animated movie about a crotchety old man, an overweight Asian-American boy, a flightless bird-of-paradise and a pack of woebegone dogs wouldn’t seem to be the recipe for a Hollywood blockbuster. But Pixar’s magic is deep and so is this movie.
    This being a Pixar Animation movie, we get a short ahead of the feature. Perhaps the most lighthearted film ever, Partly Cloudy adroitly combines rib-tickling humor with lump-in-the-throat emotion. Bravo.

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Ed Asner and newcomer Jordan Nagai perfectly capture the odd couple at the center of the movie. Asner’s a past master at playing lovably gruff, never better than here as Carl Fredricksen, while young Nagai nails the impetuosity and guilelessness of 8 year old Russell.

    Notable minor contributions come from the always classic Christopher Plummer, the always fierce Delroy Lindo, not to mention writer-director Bob Peterson as the perfect dog. “Squirrel!!”

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    Intended for children of all ages, the film initially focuses on Carl and Ellie, a couple of crazy kids who meet cute1 in a fresh and memorable way. Following Carl from boyhood to widowhood, the film humanizes him in a deep and moving way, one that should make even the most hard-hearted kid empathize with the old man who occupies most of the movie. To wit, the origin story establishes Ellie as the talkative one, making Carl’s later reticence entirely characteristic.

    Equally brilliant are the dogs – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and the sweetest of them all, Dug. Their obsession with squirrels, the strict hierarchy within the pack, their devotion to a master, and the importance they place on posturing all ring deeply true. Dog lovers will love this movie as much as any dog movie ever.

    More subtly, media amplified hero worship gets cleverly built up and then torn down. The movie is as subversive in this regard as was Unforgiven. High praise indeed.

    Last but not least, the film includes perhaps the Greatest Snipe Hunt in the history of the movies.

    1 As required by the laws of Romantic Comedies.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    Brilliant, transcendent story. The dialog stoops for a cheap joke or two, and occasionally labors on expository transitions. Never for long though. Once the adventure gets going – after a thrilling, funny, deeply affecting love story – the screenplay unfailingly layers meaning on top of madcap fun.

    Giggle laughs are always right around the corner. Soon enough it becomes clear that the entire proceedings pulse with sustained comedic energy.

    Here’s how great and fully realized the story and dialog are: I believe it could succeed as a Broadway show. Animation. We don’t need no stinking animation.

    Kudos also to how the script promotes a healthy regard for all God’s creatures without heavy handed moralizing. And for making Russell an Asian-American but never calling attention to that fact. True equality, that.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Has straight up theatrical music ever been done better? Bravvvvvo-o-o-o-o-o.

    The occasional song: perfectly crafted. 40s easy on the melodies, deceptively meaningful in the lyrics, a musical analog to the film itself.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Skin: not so great. Fabrics, clouds, distance shots: better than real life. How do they produce such visual wonders? Ever more powerful computing and software, sure, but also with lots and lots of human labor. To wit, the credits listed some 70 animators as part of what looked to be a total production crew of several hundred individuals.

    The human characters have movie star über-heads. Why not? Oversized features characterized Bogart, Grant and Palance. Why so? Perhaps because creating a truly realistic head remains beyond the ken of even Pixar.

  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.1
  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Gentle 1.2
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.0
  18. Surreal 2.7

    The movie’s Paradise Falls are based on a UN World Heritage site in Venezuela, described in the Bay Area Science article The real world behind Up’s Paradise Falls.

  19. Circumstantial Supernatural 4.0
  20. Biological Supernatural 3.1
  21. Physical Surreal 3.0


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