Thursday, July 9, 2009
Up - A Review
I finally went to see Disney Pixar’s new animated feature UP the other night - in 3D no less! To summarize the plot, Up is about Carl, who as a quiet child is drawn to exploration and adventure, focusing intently on a famous adventurer of the time named Charles Muntz. He meets a neighborhood girl Ellie, who although the complete opposite of him in temperament, shares his passion. They let their imaginations run wild together as children and eventually grow up and marry. With every intention of going on wild adventures together, they instead find life continually getting in the way. It’s now years later, and Carl, a curmudgeonly widower finally decides to go on that adventure he and Ellie always planned by tying thousands of helium balloons to his house and flying himself down to South America. A neighborhood kid, Russell, a scout of sorts intent on earning his “aiding the elderly” badge accidentally stows away with Carl in his flying house and all sorts of adventure (prominently featuring an exotic bird, a gaggle of “talking” dogs, and the reclusive adventurer Muntz) does find them. Whew. I meant to summarize that a little more succinctly, but oh well.
The first 15 minutes of Up are quite possibly the most beautiful minutes of any animated feature I’ve ever seen. And I don’t mean just visually beautiful, they are emotionally chock full of the beauty of childhood wonderment and imagination, the strength of love that can grow between two people as they form a life together, and the tragedies that life can bring. After a brief scene where we see Carl and Ellie first meet as children, we get to see, in silent film fashion, their life together unfold. So much is learned about these characters in such a short amount of time: their hopes, their careers, their heartbreaks, their seemingly mundane everyday existence, and ultimately her death. By the end of this film within the film I was in tears. And although Ellie as an adult does not utter any lines of dialogue she is a fully fleshed character whose presence is felt throughout the film. I wish there was an entire movie of just Carl and Ellie’s life together. Get on that Pixar, I’ll watch it!
Widower Carl is heartbreaking in his sadness and retreat from the world. In your heart you know that Ellie would not have wanted this for him. When he makes his decision to finally go on their great adventure without her, you can’t help but be thrilled. And he does it so spectacularly with his thousands of balloons!
Little Russell is a delight and he brings welcome, cheerful, balance to our grumpy main man Carl. Although at first unwelcome, Russell eventually gives Carl what he was missing after the loss of Ellie: loyalty, friendship, wonder, joy.
A lot of the humor in the story comes when Russell and Carl are trekking through the jungle in the attempt to get the house to Paradise Falls. The exotic jungle bird that takes a shining to Russell (and the chocolate he feeds it) is appropriately brilliant in color and personality and the dogs, equipped with high tech collars that relay their thoughts into speech, that are tracking the bird are a delight. I cried with laughter when the menacing lead dog, called Alpha (haha), suffers from a malfunctioning speech collar. And the misfit of the bunch, Dug, who ends up befriending Carl and Russell, is perfectly goofy and one of the best things about the entire film.
Pixar really used 3D wonderfully here. Nothing jumps out at you in an obnoxious fashion. The 3D is more subtle, giving the entire movie more depth and really helping to create a tangible world. After Coraline and now this picture I’m excited about what 3D used right can add to a film.
Ultimately Up is a dazzling adventure story that teaches you the age old lesson that you can find adventure in your own backyard and that even the most mundane life can BE an adventure if you go through it happily with the ones you love. It also encourages you to remain open to love in whatever shape it comes in: wife, bird, dog, neighborhood kid. . . :)
I want to see it again.