A summer movie that looks ‘Up’
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – If I was a five-year-old kid, I think I would be rather disappointed by Pixar’s latest computer-animated movie, “Up.” If I remember correctly, at that age all I was interested in was fart and booger jokes, cutesy, overly-energetic animal characters and non-stop, eye-popping action, almost all of which are acutely absent in “Up.” Instead what we get is a grumpy old man, a fat boy scout, an annoying bird and an army of mean dogs. And somehow it all works. That’s not to say that children won’t enjoy “Up,” but it’s a movie made more for adults who still wish they were children, rather than actual children.
Let me explain.
When the movie starts out we are introduced to two kids – Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner) and Ellie (Elizabeth Docter) – who are both obsessed with a famous adventurer and explorer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). As they grow up they get married, buy a house, try to have kids (but can’t), plan their own trip to Paradise Falls in South America (a place made famous by Muntz) for their own adventure even as the little problems of life gradually strips that dream away from them. After Ellie dies of old age, Carl is left alone to defend his home from developers who are trying to get it from him to complete a new development in his neighborhood. And all this is portrayed in a a wordless montage over slow piano music – not exactly stuff kids care about yet.
But again, it works, and it’s beautifully moving to those of us who have experienced more of life than comic books and Saturday-morning cartoons.
When Carl is court-ordered to move into a home for the elderly, he bravely attempts to fulfill a promise he made to Ellie to visit South America, and with the help of thousands of helium balloons and a boy scout in search of his “assisting the elderly” badge, he makes his escape and embarks on the only real adventure he’s ever had.
“Up” takes more unexpected twists than I’ve ever seen in a movie like this and just when you think you’ve got the formula figured out, it throws another curve ball. I won’t ruin any of the surprises because the less you know, the more delightful they are.
“Up” is all that a great fantasy movie should be. A floating house juxtaposed with a lush jungle setting is just one of the beautiful contrasts the film presents, while the themes it dabbles in: Aging, mortality, divorce, loneliness, love, corporate greed and courage are shown in a way that assumes children can understand more than stupid pop-culture references and poop jokes while at the same time giving adults something to relate to. And while there are long periods where not much happens, when there is action, it’s intense and well choreographed.
With “Up,” Pixar has once again expanded the boundaries of what we should expect from the computer animated film genre. The very fact that almost none of the characters in the movie are marketable as merchandise is a nice change of pace, and it assumes the audience is intelligent and ready for a new experience, rather than just a bunch of careless parents trying to keep their kids mindlessly entertained.
I walked out of the theater feeling emotionally fulfilled, visually stimulated and like all my brain cells were still intact. While parts of this film can be a downer, “Up” floated high above my expectations.
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