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Cannes 2009: 'Up' couldn't get much higher

May 13, 2009 |  9:41 am

Critics are not always kind to the opening-night movie at the Cannes Film Festival — witness the trashing endured by 2006’s  “The Da Vinci Code” and last year’s “Blindness.” But reviewers are stepping all over themselves trying to out-praise Wednesday’s Cannes opener, the Pixar-Disney release “Up.”

The film was an unusual Cannes pick, becoming the international film festival’s first animated movie to launch the festival. The movie, which is about a 78-year-old’s balloon-powered journey to a strange and distant land, is also Disney and Pixar’s first animated movie to play in any part of the Cannes lineup.

Peter Bradshaw of Britain’s Guardian said “Up” revived “memories of classic adventures from the pens of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne and movies like Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ ”  Emanuel Levy, writing on his own website , said, “ ‘Up’ is by turns serious and funny, poignant and frivolous (when it needs to be), but also highly and unexpectedly romantic.”

Michael Rechtshaffen, reviewing the film for the Hollywood Reporter, said: “Winsome, touching and arguably the funniest Pixar effort ever, the gorgeously rendered, high-flying adventure is a tidy 90-minute distillation of all the signature touches that came before it.”

In Britain’s Telegraph, critic Sukhdev Sandhu gave “Up” five stars and said of its first Cannes press screening, “Any of the assembled critics who thought the choice was a bit gimmicky or a sop to the Hollywood studios will surely have changed their tune: it's utterly delightful, certain to appeal to audiences young, old and all points in between.”

Pixar and Disney will celebrate the film in a beachside party late Wednesday night. Before the film’s gala screening Wednesday evening, the two studios dispatched scores of local kids to hand out balloons, transforming the Croisette, Cannes’ main boulevard, into even more of a carnival than it usually is this time of year.

— John Horn