I agree completely with Alan Jacobs’ first sentiment in his listicle review of Up:
One: I loved it. I laughed, I cried.
I wholly contest his second point:
Two: Talking dogs who fly little fighter airplanes? There’s Dreamworks for that. This strikes me as the kind of thing that Pixar usually avoids: in Pixar’s worlds, animals (and toys) usually can talk to each other but not to human beings. Think about how Remy in Ratatouille chatters away to other rats but responds to Linguini with a rather full repertoire of Gallic gestures. By following this rule most of the time the filmmakers are able to get maximum effect from breaking it, e.g., when the toys in Toy Story scare the crap out of Sid by talking to him. I think the talking dogs in Up constitute one of the larger narrative missteps Pixar has made in a while.
Is the idea of digitally-assisted talking dogs the most clever Pixar has come up with? Not by a long shot. And is it an important narrative element? Not really. But they are Pixar’s funniest supporting characters since the alien dolls from Toy Story. The dogs don’t serve an important narrative purpose; they are comic relief. This very easily could have been a cutesy, lame gimmick, but of the dozen belly laughs I felt in the theater, 11 were dog-induced. Pixar just does talking creatures better.