The first Pixar movies were aimed at kids, but proffered enough wit to keep adult viewers amused, too. The studio’s later films have turned that credo on its head, weaving distinctly grown-up themes – love, relationships, the very meaning of existence – into stories children can also enjoy.
It’s a brave approach, yet Pixar’s commercial model is clearly so powerful that not even being taken over by Disney in 2006 (for $7.4 billion) has changed the way it goes about its business. In fact, it seems to have encouraged even bolder thinking: compared to 2006’s kid-friendly Cars, Ratatouille (2007) and Wall•E (2008) were notably more sophisticated, adult-orientated features.
Not just for kids
Now, Up pushes the creative boundaries further still. This simply isn’t a kids’ film, although children will doubtless love it. It’s beautiful, loving, moving and as bittersweet as any Hollywood classic you care to name – yet it’s entirely free of schmaltzy excess. Indeed, the opening half-hour is positively dark: as Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Hollywood stalwart Ed Asner) loses the love of his life and, with her, his reason for living, he retreats into a cantankerous insularity as heart-rending as anything Kafka could conjure.
Carl’s redemption comes from within as much ?as without: driven by his need to consummate the unfulfilled dreams of Amazonian exploration he shared with wife Ellie, he concocts a fantastical ?yet utterly fabulous escape, using thousands of balloons to float his house away from his tedious urban existence and onwards to adventure.
Unlikely? Of course – but no more so than, say, The Wizard Of Oz’s vision of airborne escapism. Directors Pete Docter and Bob Petersen balance the pathos with studious injections of comedy – for Toto, read Dug the talking dog, brilliantly voiced by Petersen himself – while the film’s finale, as Carl confronts his erstwhile hero, explorer Charles Muntz, is as epic as anything Pixar has attempted.
Stunning picture and sound
And of course, this being a Disney/Pixar disc, every aspect of its presentation is superb, from ?the clarity of transfer to the wondrous cohesion and drama of its 6.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio score. It’s a masterpiece of deft steering and formidable dynamics.
This is a special film, one that works on two levels. The first is a hugely touching homily on the meaning of life; the second is a story about ?a grumpy old man, a floating house and some talking dogs. Either way you approach it (and your age will play a decisive role in that), Up is masterly, memorable and simply magical.
Picture: 1.78:1 (1920x1080p)
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 6.1
Up is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 15th February, but pre-orders are open now. Of special interest is the so-called Up Superset, which includes two Blu-rays, a DVD, and a digital copy of the main feature. You can pick it up for £17.88 on Amazon.