Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Video review: "Up"

Only Pixar, the animation studio behind "Finding Nemo" and "Wall·E," could produce a movie about a cranky, lonely old man and make it both an artistic and commercial hit.

Carl Fredricksen (voice by Ed Asner), the protagonist of "Up," has the world's sourest attitude. His beloved wife Ellie passed away some years ago, and all he really cares about in the world is the ramshackle home they shared for decades -- which is about to bulldozed for some high-rise construction.

So Carl hooks a million balloons to his house and floats it away. His goal is to navigate to Paradise Falls, the mysterious land where Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) -- the famous explorer who was his and Ellie's childhood hero -- disappeared long ago.

But it turns out that Carl has a stowaway: Russell (Jordan Nagai), a young Wilderness Explorer (think Cub Scout) obsessed with getting his last merit badge. Soon after landing in Paradise Falls, Carl and Russell are joined by Dug, a hyper dog with a gizmo collar that allows him to talk.

Director and co-writer Pete Docter ("Monsters, Inc.") layers the goofy antics in with some genuinely touching melodramatic moments. Like many Pixar films, "Up" is best appreciated by grown-ups.

Extra features are pretty good for the DVD version, but really take off in the Blu-ray edition (a combo DVD/Blu-ray pack is available).

The DVD comes with a commentary track by Docter and co-director Bob Peterson, alternate scenarios for the death of Muntz, a documentary on the filmmakers' journey to South America's Tepuis mountains for inspiration, and "Partly Cloudy," the short film that preceded "Up" in its theatrical release.

The Blu-ray has a host of features, including conceptual drawings of the major characters and canine companions, how the animators made Carl's house fly, and even how they carefully designed the interior and exterior of his house. Plus, a digital copy of the film for uploading to a portable device.

Movie: 3.5 stars
Extras: 3.5 stars

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