Every so often, a movie comes along that inspires the audience to live a better way, to take risks, and stop making excuses. I was stunned that this inspirational, physics defying film comes in the form of Pixar’s Up, a animated wonderment about an old man wracked with grief, a yellow dog, a chubby little boy and a huge flightless bird, in a floating house.
Inspired by the great adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), retired balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner) planned an adventure to Paradise Falls in South America for his entire life. One day, after his circumstances change, at age 78, he decides to not wait any longer. He, and his house, head off for Paradise Falls. Little does he know that young Russell (Jordan Nagai), a scout trying to get his assisting the elderly badge, accidently tags along.
Writer and co-director Pete Docter masterfully lays the story out before the audience, just one bejeweled brick at a time, leading us down a path we cannot see but can’t wait to stroll along. The actors, primarily Edward Asner and Jordan Nagai act as guides, telling us what to look at along the way. The first ten minutes of the movie play like a short film with emotional dips and rises occurring in well-timed succession. Emotional restraint was impossible for most of us in the theater. I was so touched that I had laughed out loud and cried to myself quietly during the first few minutes of Up.
The deeper meanings of Carl might be lost on small children, but the character Russell definitely won’t be by most American children. His charming innocence is tempered near the end of the movie. There is a good chance that anyone under thirty-five will relate to Russell’s hang-ups.
The last half-hour of Up resonated deeply with me. Each of the character’s personal struggles, even Dug (Bob Peterson), a dog with a collar that speaks his thoughts, felt like it was taken directly from my life. The length of reach and depth of heart is astonishing.
If Peter Docter is a brick layer and the actors guides, then the animation team are expert brickmakers. It doesn’t matter how great the writing is, the voice actors are, or the quality of the direction of the audience can’t suspend disbelief and submit to the story. The animators don’t just do a beautiful job: the animation is exquisite in Up.
There is a scene at the beginning of the movie which shows all of Carl’s ties, when the animators just plain show off. In about 15 seconds they give an amazing demonstration of light, texture, color and movement. There are no lapses in quality, no shortcuts, no moments where the animators said “that’s good enough.”
My one complaint is about the 3D, which could have been done better and caused me a great deal of eyestrain and a bit of nausea. It is unnecessary and adds nothing but problems. Pixar should ixnay the eedeethray.
Days after seeing Up, I’m still thinking about the gorgeous animation, the resonating characters and emotional story. Before Up, I had never seen a movie with potential to speak to and entertain people of all ages in such a meaningful way.
Man or woman, elderly or child, young or middle aged, Up has a message sure to last long after you leave. Do not miss this opportunity to do something with the children, grandparents and parents in your life. Plan sometime this weekend, get together with the people you love and see Up. If you don’t love it, I’ll suck a helium balloon.
PS: The short film in the beginning, “Partly Cloudy” is a truly adorable bit of film making. Make sure to be settled by the time it starts.