Pixar is the kind of studio that can tell an entire love story without words. And it’s a whole love story with adult problems—tragedies, delayed dreams, budget crises, and growing old. Parents taking their children to go see Pixar’s latest film, UP, will be in for a pleasant surprise when they find that the action and comedy are at least as much intended for an adult audience as for children, if not more. In UP, Disney and Pixar have created a movie that is meaningful and funny for both children and adults, without resorting to the type of potty humor or other dirty jokes of some animated films, such as the Shrek series.
Based on the movie trailers, somehow I thought that a child was the movie’s hero and the old man was just along for the ride. Really, though, the hero of UP is the old man, Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner). UP begins with Carl as a child, meeting Ellie, the girl who would become the love of his life. They share a dream of flying to South America like their childhood hero, aviator Charles Muntz. Pixar beautifully shows the audience the story of their life together in a five minute sequence of scenes without dialogue, just music. For me, this was the most memorable part of the whole movie. Carl and Ellie keep saving to have their big adventure, but life’s surprises are sometimes expensive and that keeps them at home. At the end of this sequence, Carl is much, much older (78?) and is living as a widower in the house that he and Ellie played in their whole lives. And he’s about to lose it all. A flashy, young construction company is building skyscrapers all around his house, but Carl refuses to move. After an outburst of anger, Carl is court-ordered to sell the house and move to a retirement community. But he’s not about to let the house be destroyed. If it’s going down, he’s going down with it. Or, rather, he’s going up. Carl decides it’s about time he and Ellie had their big adventure and he attaches an impossible number of balloons to his house, stringing them up through the chimney. When the nurses from the retirement home come to get him, he lets the balloons out and his house lifts right off its foundation and floats away.
I’ll leave my synopsis there, so there’s no spoilers, but I’ll say this: the rest of the movie is full of action that, in a way, pays homage to great adventure stories such as Indiana Jones and The Wizard of Oz. (Seriously, I was just waiting for the house to drop on the bad guy.) There are wild animals, jungles, sinister poachers, and enough plot twists to keep the movie fairly unpredictable.
Really, UP is just enchanting. The premise is based on that childhood fantasy of “What if I could use balloons and fly away?” and that on its own would be enough to make the movie endearing, but UP is about so much more than just wish-fulfillment and escapism. The movie covers enough themes to fill a twenty-page paper. UP explores the idea that life is our great adventure. It negotiates paying tribute to those we’ve loved while also letting go when they’re gone without forgetting the role they played in our lives. The movie addresses the perils of hero worship and complacency. Finally, and most obviously, UP presents the need for stronger father figures for young people, as well as the need for adults to slow down and re-experience childhood through letting kids be kids and playing with them as a way to show parental love.
This charming animated film is as deep as it is entertaining. I laughed a lot. I cried a little. I left the theater feeling uplifted and very happy I had gone to see UP instead of Land of the Lost orNight at the Museum. While the thought provoking elements may be more geared for adults, there’s plenty for kids in this movie too. There’s Russell (Jordan Nagai), the hapless boyscout who travels with Carl and creates ever-increasing trouble. Russell is sort of a parody of an enthusiastic child. He’s true to life, so kids will love him, but also so adults will laugh at how much he really sounds like an over-stimulated eight year-old. He also has a soft spot for nature and always wants to help people too. In addition to a great child sidekick, there are really cool animals in this movie. The animals in Disney movies were always my favorite part and this movie has an awesome giant bird, Kevin, and a pack of dogs with collars that allow them to talk. The talking dogs provide plenty of easy laughs, but really, their subplot is pretty clever.
In a nutshell, UP has fantastic character development and the voicework is excellent too. The characters are funny, relatable, and loveable. I felt like I knew Carl. The animals have lots of personality as well and are a lot of fun to watch. As always, Pixar does great animation. I saw the movie in 2D because I wear glasses and find 3D glasses cumbersome, but UP is also available in 3D, which I’ve been told by reliable sources is pretty cool for this movie. All in all, UP is a fun family film that manages to be light-hearted and thought provoking. It will awaken the inner child in adults while providing a good time for kids too.
UP was written by Bob Peterson and co-directed by Peterson and Pete Docter. Rated PG for some peril and action. Runtime 96 mins. After the previews there’s a cute short film, Partly Cloudy.
If you’re a grown-up and enjoyed UP, rent Danny Deckchair. This 2004 Australian romantic comedy stars Rhys Ifans as Danny, a construction worker who finds himself in the grips of severe boredom. After he overhears his girlfriend (Justine Clarke) basically complain that he’s boring and pathetic, Danny attaches some giant helium balloons, like the ones they use to advertise at car dealerships, to a deckchair just to see if he could get off the ground. Does he ever. In a freak accident, Danny floats away and starts a new life with a new love interest (Miranda Otto) on the other side of Australia. But, of course, he can’t escape his old life forever. Danny Deckchair is an adorable, light-hearted comedy that touts “With a big dream and a little altitude, anything’s possible,” making it a perfect pair for Pixar’s UP.
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