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Monday, July 13, 2009

Movie Review: Up

Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) (Some peril, action.)
Studio: Disney Pixar
Release Date: May 29, 2009
Run Time: 96 minutes

A young Carl Fredrickson meets a young adventure spirited girl named Ellie. They both dream of going to a Lost Land in South America. 70 years later, Ellie has died. Carl remembers the promise he made to her. Then, when he inadvertently hits a construction worker, he is forced to go to a retirement home. But before they can take him, he and his house fly away. However he has a stowaway aboard. An 8 year old boy named Russell, whose trying to get an assisting the elderly badge. Together, they embark in an adventure, where they encounter talking dogs, an evil villain and a rare bird named Kevin. Written by Garfield2710

Having returned from Disney World less than a week ago, my wife and I took my daughter to see Up this past weekend. While at Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando we were bombarded with advertisements for this Pixar film, Up. We had been meaning to see it for a while so Saturday morning we made the trek over to the local theater and paid through the nose to see this movie.

We didn't see it in IMax, but in stunning Disney Digital 3D. 3D technology has come a long ways since I saw Jaws 3D as a kid. No more blue and red lenses in the 3D glasses, and the image quality is stunning. This all comes with a price though as even the matinee viewing set us back over $33, and that was before we dropped more cash on popcorn and beverages.

Still, just the sheer beauty of this film's animation, 3D effect, and overall image clarity was worth the extra money. But it is Up's story that really grabs a hold of you. While watching the first several minutes I decided that this would be today's blog entry. And the material for today's blogging grew from there.

The set-up for the film, which occurs in the first few minutes of it's 96 minute running time, is an amazing trip through a lifetime. Most of it is set to music with no dialogue as we see our protagonist's journey through life with his wife Ellie. Carl and Ellie were childhood sweethearts, and as their life is documented for us through everyday life events like buying a home, Ellie tying Carl's tie each morning, hillside picnics, and, eventually, illness and Ellie's death, it is an amazingly poignant summary. I found myself fighting back tears as it drew to a close.

That an animated film could evoke such an emotional response from a 40 year-old male is incredible. But as that chapter of the film closes, it fades to black and there is silence on the screen, and in the movie theater. And that is when it hit me that I had to write about this film. There was not a sound in the theater. Granted, since we were seeing this film nearly a full 6 weeks since it's release, it wasn't a packed house, but the 50 or so of us at that early afternoon viewing sat in emotional silence for several seconds as the film segued into the meat of the story. I have seen a lot of movies over the years, and heard a variety of audience reactions. Never have I heard such utter silence. I didn't even hear the usual munching of popcorn.

Pixar threw us all a curve ball. We expected a whimsical cartoon with funny moments. Think Toy Story or Cars. Instead we saw two people's lives from their meeting to ultimate parting. To try to put the entire sequence into words would be an effort in futility. You really have to see it and experience it. But Pixar should be commended for one of the most moving montages in animated film history. Not that their mastery of animated film should come as a surprise.

Up is only more delightful from there. The messages that this film sends are numerous and profound. What it says about the quickness of life, the elderly, what is most important, and fresh starts is subtle but obvious. They are important messages none-the-less, and while this film has plenty in it to appeal to children, adults will not only enjoy it, but can learn a thing or two from it as well.

The most important scene to me is a scene where Carl has to choose between the material things in his life, and his friends. As the summary points out, he is befriended by Russell, a young "boy scout" trying to earn an "assisting the elderly" badge. He also ends up teaming with a talking dog named "Dug" (he is able to talk via an electronic collar devised by the film's evil villian), and a rare bird that Russell has named "Kevin".

In the scene where Carl has to make his choice, Russell has flown off on some of Carl's balloons to rescue Kevin. Carl finally has positioned his house where Ellie always imagined it: next to Paradise Falls. The house is really symbolic of Carl's life, it holds all of the earthly treasures that he and Ellie had accumulated over the years. Carl has attached a lot of significance to the house and the material items inside. Throughout the film he has been most protective over the house and his belongings.

After Russell flies off, Carl knows that the young boy is in great peril without him to assist. The problem is that Carl's house is too heavy for the depleted balloons to hoist. Before Russell flew off to save Kevin he threw off his most prized possession: his scout badge sash with all of his scout badges. This inspires Carl and he begins to throw out of the house all of those prized possessions he and Ellie had acquired to ligten the house enough for the remaining balloons to carry it. Carl realizes what is most important in life, and is willing to get rid of his material things to attend to more important matters.

This is an important lesson for us. Sometimes we become so caught up in pursuit of material things that we lose sight of what is most important. Carl realized that the memories he had with Ellie were what was important, not the material things they had accumulated. He had put more value on things than he did on the memories. Once he came to this realization he was able to throw off the shackles those things had placed on him.

In the end Carl flies off to help Russell on their adventure to rescue Kevin. Without giving away too much of the ending, Carl ends up a father figure in Russell's life and as the film closes you get the impression that Carl, Russell, Dug, and Kevin will all live happily ever after. Or as the film pointed out in the set-up, until their lives come to an end.

Poignant, emotional, whimsical, endearing, enlightening, thought-provoking, and purely enjoyable, Up is a must see for all. Young and old alike will love this film, learn from this film, and laugh with this film. I rarely say a film, especially an animated film, is a must see, but Up is a must see. I was even able to look past the fact that Ed Asner was the voice of Carl!


4simpsons said...

Excellent review of an excellent film. I thought the same things. The opening montage was simply outstanding.

politicaljules said...

I saw it in 3-d too and it was remarkable. Your review and comments were deeply touching. I admit that I cried at the film and I cried with your revelations. Happy tears that is. However, I am a girl and have been know to have very leaky eyes on occasion.

I loved Dug too! SQUIRREL!

"I have been hiding under your porch because I love you."