Pixar's Up Soars with Emotional Depth
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2009 5 May
DVD Release Date: November 10, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: May 29, 2009
Rating: PG (for some peril and action)
Run Time: 96 min.
Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Voices by: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Delroy Lindo, John Ratzenberger, David Kaye, Elie Docter, Jeremy Leary, Danny Mann
While I'm a big fan of movie trailers that manage to save a few of the really good scenes for the actual movie, I couldn't help but feel a bit hoodwinked when watching the first 15 minutes of Up.
Much like the trailer for Marley & Me, which was all golden retriever cuteness sprinkled in with doggie hijinks without any indication of the sadness waiting in the wings, (guess I should've read the book first, after all), there's so much more to Up than the brightly colored balloons and sassy barbs traded between an over-eager boy scout and a really grumpy old man.
In fact, I dare you not to shed a tear (or many, in my case) as the highlights and sorrows of Carl Fredricksen's (a superb Edward Asner) life play out in the film's first few minutes. Like they did so marvelously in last year's Wall·E, the Pixar folks certainly know how to evoke emotion without using any words at all. And through this thoughtful montage, the audience gets a very telling glimpse of how Carl became the crusty curmudgeon he is today.
The romance with a fellow adventure-seeker named Ellie that eventually blossomed into a beautiful marriage is easily one of the best on-screen love stories I've seen in a while—unlike the superficial pairings in most romantic comedies. With a love like that, it's no surprise that Carl's great loss makes it difficult for him to enjoy life when she's not a part of it. So instead of moving on, he's basically checked out.
Things ultimately pick up emotionally, though, when Carl loses his temper. See, there's a high-rise going up next to his humble little abode. With the serenity he's masterfully created for himself in jeopardy, Carl has decided that he's been disturbed long enough. So he expresses his displeasure with one of the construction guys with a nice firm punch. Of course, the construction company doesn't exactly appreciate the gesture, so legal action is taken immediately. After all, they want the house, and Carl's "violent" behavior may be their meal ticket.
When a shrewd judge eventually orders Carl to move into a glorified nursing home, that's the final straw. Determined to save his home, and his sanity in the process, Carl devises an ingenious plan: He ties thousands and thousands of helium balloons to his beloved home and happily floats away to South America, the place where he and his wife had planned to have an adventure, but never got around to.
The scene where the house is floating away is one of the movie's most sumptuous visuals. Even with glorious attention to detail, the Pixar crew proves a lot can be done with a very little as the film's "set" is probably the most simple one they've created to date.
Story-wise, what eventually follows is a delightfully entertaining and wildly inventive adventure that really takes off once that aforementioned boy scout, a tubby little kid named Russell (Jordan Nagai) unexpectedly joins Carl for the wild and crazy ride. Determined to earn his badge for helping the elderly, Russell annoys the fire out of Carl at first. But once the duo arrive in South America, well, they're quite the irresistible team. Russell becomes the son that Carl never had, and Carl becomes the father figure that Russell has always lacked in his life.
To say much more would inevitably rob you of the rest of Up's undeniable pleasures. But I will say two things in closing: 1) You've been warned, bring a tissue and 2) This movie is going to land on many critics' "Best of 2009" lists. Yes, Pixar soars yet again with Up.
- Drugs/Alcohol: None.
- Language/Profanity: None.
- Sex/Nudity: None.
- Violence: There are a couple of fight scenes that are more comedic than violent.
- Thematic Material: Up is not your typical slap-happy kids' movie. As part of the Carl's backstory during what's essentially a tear-inducing falling-in-love montage, we learn that Carl's wife experienced a miscarriage and later dies.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.