Last night we revived a long held tradition in our house: seeing Pixar movies at midnight on opening day. We started the tradition on college with Toy Story 2 and continued it all the way until Cars, which we saw opening day instead. We’ve always been big Pixar fans and really love going to see them on the big screen. I can easily say that Up didn’t disappoint and I’m already reserving it a space in the my DVD collection. Read on for the full run-down

I suppose I need to preface any review with the classical spoiler warning, but for Up it might almost be unnecessary. If you’ve seen the trailer, you probably have a good idea of the plot of the movie. That’s not to say the plot is shallow in any way, it’s actually beautifully crafted in it’s simplicity and formula, but it is after all a kids movie. Certain plot expectations are made going in. You just know that the characters will be lovable and funny, there will be some sort of less-than-scary, comically evil villain and that everything will be nice and happy in the end. Those are key components of a kids movie and Pixar hasn’t strayed from the formula.

Or have they?

Up is divided (by me) into 3 main acts. Act 1 is probably the least kid-friendly bit of film making I’ve ever seen Pixar do. There’s still a bit of humor, a lot of love, but a lot of adult material that kids would be scratching their heads at. Adults will instantly understand and appreciate the sensitivity with which they handle the subject of falling in love, growing old and, in what are probably the most adult themes of the movie, not being able to have kids and eventually even the death of a loved one. These are all character story and development aspects that kids just won’t get. They’ll be confused and ask things like “why is the lady crying?” and “where did the lady go?”

Those subjects were beautifully handled by Pixar in a loving montage sequence which by my estimates, had most of the adults in the theater teary-eyed to say the least.

For the kiddos, thankfully the story picks right up in Act 2, which is the more comedic of the acts and leads to the introduction of both Kevin and Doug, the two funniest characters in the movie. The middle section of the film is light and funny with sections of just plain-old gut busting comedy in spades.

The third section is the “action” section which has our main story climax and epic confrontation with the bad guy. It was handled well with a good mix of suspense and comedy, in the more traditional Pixar fashion. There were a couple adult jokes strewn in there for good measure including a thinly-veiled Star Wars reference that most of the audience was too young to get. You’ll know it when you see it.

So, story wise, Pixar delivers the quality once again. I really can’t say anything bad about it. Pacing, character development, plot, all pretty perfect though formulaic, which again isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You just know what you’re going to get going in, and it delivers.

Since it is a Pixar movie, we probably need to talk about the animation itself. It’s reassuring to know that these guys have this down to such an art that the “quality” is more than likely never going to be an issue. It’s simply gorgeous. In particular, the cloth textures were fantastic. Russel’s hat and badges stand out as an example. Also, the stubble on Carl’s chin that grows as the movie progresses is just one of those things that only Pixar is consciencely thinking of that just enhances the movie experience without you really knowing it.

It’s also a good example to budding animators about the stylistic choices you have in making a movie like this. They could have easily chosen to do slightly more normal sized/shaped characters (Ratatouille or The Incredibles for example) but they chose more exaggerated “shapes” that I think worked really well. Carl, his face and most of his features are very square/rectangle while Russel is nearly a perfect circle or at least very egg shaped. Those two play off each other in terms of the psychological effect it has on our understanding of the characters.

At any rate, the movie was fantastic. I really enjoyed every minute. I’m a bit of a zombie today, but it was well worth it. I can’t even argue with the 98% it has for a rating at the moment. Go see it, you’ll like it. If you bring the kiddos, just be ready to answer a couple post-movie questions about life, death, love, and South America.

Matt out.