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Entertainment behind the scenes

Critics give thumbs “Up”

May 28, 2009

In Pixar’s 2007 movie “Ratatouille,” a food critic played by Peter O’Toole offers a glowing review of a restaurant run by a rat, in a poignant scene at the climax of the film. O’Toole’s drupamatic speech begins with the words, “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy,” before going on to say that his true job is the “defense of the new.” When it comes to Disney/Pixar’s latest animated release “Up,” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times is on a similar wavelength. “Some films are an obligation to write about, ‘Up’ is the purest pleasure,” he reports.

Nearly all of Turan’s fellow critics agree about “Up,” which opens on Friday floating on a wave of box office success for other family-oriented films. The movie is about an old man and a boy who set off in a house carried skyward by 20,622 helium balloons. The aggregating Web site rottentomatoes.com reports that as of Thursday afternoon, 97 percent of critics have given the movie a favorable rating. Rotten Tomatoes has stamped all 10 Pixar films with its “Certified Fresh” seal of approval, going back to the 1995 “Toy Story.”

Turan in his review said that “Up” is noteworthy for starring an old man, voiced by Ed Asner, who appears genuinely old, instead of having the physicality of a young man.  ”This is a film that is heartfelt enough to restore your faith in whatever needs restoration,” Turan wrote.

David Edelstein of New York Magazine remarked on the computer-generated imagery (CGI) of the film. “The look of ‘Up’ is a world away from Pixar’s usual CGI intricacies – simple in a way that only artists with a genius for complexity can achieve.”  

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal was one of the few critics to take ”Up” down a notch.  ”The characterizations are fairly coarse cartoons, in contrast to the emotionally rich cartoons that have become Pixar’s hallmark. They’re more schematic than organic, and that applies to the plotting as well,” he wrote.

“Up” will open in about 3,800 theaters on Friday with more than 1,500 of those locations showing the movie in 3-D, the Walt Disney Company said.

Aside from the critical praise for “Up,” the film also generated positive buzz this month at Cannes in France, where it became the first ever animated feature to open the international film festival.

And online ticket seller Fandango.com has reported that advance sales for “Up” are outpacing advance ticket sales for the March release “Monsters vs. Aliens,” which so far has made $345 million at worldwide box offices. Fandango surveyed a thousand movie goers planning to see “Up” and 80 percent plan to see it during the opening weekend.

Sounds like thumbs are up, for “Up”

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