Continuing my countdown of every Pixar movie…
#4. Up (2009)
(up five spots from previous ranking)
My revisit of Up was one of the most rewarding surprises of this exercise. I hadn’t seen the film since its 2009 release, and my memory was that the film didn’t live up to its famously powerful opening.
And yes, that opening sequence is astounding. After Carl and Ellie meet as children, a wordless montage traces their entire lives together, through good times and bad, until death ultimately does them part. One of the top five Pixar sequences ever, no question, and possibly number one.
But on this rewatch, I was struck by how much the film threads the emotion of those opening minutes throughout. Carl’s loneliness is palpable in every frame. When the film dives headlong into magical realism, and Carl turns his marital home into a balloon-powered dirigible — which he later ties to his waist and drags across a mountain — the metaphorical weight of his loss is breathtaking.
The conclusion of the story — in which Carl returns to the book of adventures he believes he and Ellie never got to fill, only to realize their life together was the adventure — is as devastating as its opening. Maybe it’s because I’m married twice as long now as when I first saw the movie, but it blew me away.
I’m leaving out Randall the earnest Wilderness Explorer, Kevin the bird, and Dug the talking dog, all of whom bring heart and whimsy to the film’s middle section. Those subplots work just fine, but they aren’t the reason this movie made it into my top five.
Okay, placing Up above THREE Toy Storys I cannot abide! I feel Up is mid tier Pixar at best, and, while perhaps I too would appreciate it more on rewatch, isn’t what makes a movie top tier the desire to rewatch in the first place?. Of course, I was removed from its fantasy world when Amy refused to buy that dogs could fly planes, 😜 but still…. other than the opening sequence, I found Up to be good, not great
I disagree Dana I was hoping this would make it to the top! I loved this movie. Thought it was wonderful. I thought the dogs’s name was Doug didn’t realize it was spelled Dug. Oh well still love it ❤️😉
This definitely made me realize that I owe Up a rewatch! Choking up just reading your write up. I still think it will fall upper mid tier for me, but it has been some time. I remember Russell’s character actually holding some emotional weight for me at the time, and having Carl end the film as his family rewarding him his badge makes me cry more than the opening in some ways. Maybe that’s crazy. Anyway, great reasoning on this one.
Love the parts of the film you reference in your post but am confused how the “mid section” of the film can get such a pass. If you were to rank Toy Story 2 based solely on “When She Loved Me” or Cars on its Our Hometown sequence, they, too, should be sitting in the top 3. The magical realism in Coco works beautifully, but, yes, it famously 😜 took me out of this film when dogs were flying freaking airplanes. Agree the opening and closing are among the best Pixar has to offer,but that’s a different list.
I’m not giving “a pass” to the film’s middle section. Those parts of the film work very well. In my experience, beginnings and endings are almost always what bump a film from good to great, or from great to top tier.