The late, great Disney artist and story man Joe Grant—who remained a potent creative force until the day he died at age 96—had a mantra about the movies he worked on: “What are you giving the audience to take home?” Far too many contemporary cartoon features are like fast food, easily…
digested and just easily forgotten. The folks at Pixar revered Joe Grant, none more than Pete Docter, the co-writer and director of Up, who credits Grant (among others) onscreen as an inspiration for the film.
Up is an amazing achievement, for a variety of reasons. Its story isn’t easily encapsulated, and even if you do boil it down to one line—an old man attaches balloons to his house and flies to a remote spot in South America—you can’t begin to capture its breadth and depth. We first encounter its hero as a boy, when he develops a taste for high adventure and meets his lifelong soul-mate, Ellie. Then, in a poignant montage, we follow his life with Ellie through old age. That’s when the story-proper begins.
Up celebrates life as the greatest adventure of all, whether you’re a young boy just starting out or an old man. It paints its unpredictable story on a broad canvas with engaging characters, wonderful visual ideas, perfect voice work (by Ed Asner and company) and the attention to detail that defines a Pixar movie. I’m also very fond of the character design, which is based on the idea of caricature rather than a replication of reality: one more reason Up is such a pleasure to watch. It’s also a joy to listen to, thanks to Michael Giacchino’s evocative score.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay this film is that it takes chances. I can’t remember the last time I saw an animated feature that even attempted to touch on so many emotions. This one swings for the fences—and connects.