Starring: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
Directed by: Pete Docter (Co-directed by Bob Peterson)
To say that Disney and Pixar have the art of making animated films into a science. Up is another movie in a long line of excellent films created by this partnership. Pete Docter directed one of the best films of the year. Within minutes of the film you’ll both be laughing and crying. In fact, if you aren’t tearing up within the first couple of minutes in the movie, you’re probably a little dead inside. This movie is incredibly beautiful for the emotions it can bring out in a person. The ending is kind of rubbish but despite the fact that this movie is intended for family audiences, anyone can appreciate this masterpiece.
Carl Fredrickson has always been one for adventure. He met his wife when they were kids and bonded over the exploits of Charles F. Muntz; a man who was famous half-a-century ago for his adventurous expeditions. Muntz, though, is seen as a fraud for bringing back the skeleton of a bizarre bird that many scientists believe isn’t real. Muntz vows to go back to South American only to return once he can bring back conclusive proof that the mythical bird actually exists.
However, time has passed and so has Ellie. Carl’s life is near solitary. The home they built together is now smack in the middle of a major metropolitan development. The owners of the development are desperate to get rid of Carl so they can knock down his house and continue their project. He ends up getting into a fight with a worker on the project and which culminates in him assaulting the worker with his cane. This results in the law getting involved over the incident and is forced to move to a retirement home.
Carl feels dejected. He feels he never honoured his promise to Ellie to go build a house atop Paradise Falls in South America. He decides that now is his best shot. On the day he’s supposed to be taken to the senior care home, he surprises everyone by inflating what looks to be a million balloons that pulls his house off the foundation and carries him away. Unbeknownst to him at the time, a small boy named Russell has been carried along with Carl. Russell is a Wilderness Explorer (the fictional equivalent of a Boy Scout) and has been harassing Carl ,trying to offer him help to earn a badge for assisting the elderly. Miraculously, the house manages to find its way to South America, although it’s still a long ways away from Paradise Falls. While Carl and Russell try moving the house to the hoped resting place, they’re joined by Kevin, an endangered bird that looks like the mix between a peacock and a ostrich, and Dug, a dog with a special collar that allows him to talk to humans in English. Kevin takes to Russell quite fondly and Russell pressures Carl to ensure the bird’s safety. Little do they know that Kevin is putting them in danger because Muntz is actually in South America and he’s hellbent on bringing the bird back to America.
The tale of Carl and Ellie is probably one of the best love stories in film the last couple of years. You smile as they grow old together and you tear up when Ellie passes on. Granted, they can do things with an animated film that is much more difficult to pull off with a live-action film. They can manipulate the facial movements of the animated characters to every degree and create a strong emotional bond with the audience whereas only the best of the best among real-live actors can pull such subtle gestures off. The whole five minute montage is brilliant in that Carl seldom says a word but it still comes off as incredibly charming.
The interaction between Carl and Russell is very endearing as well. You almost get the feeling as if they’re a family from the start. Dug, the dog, and Kevin, the bird, add an amusing distraction to Carl and Russell’s relationship. The whole movie is scripted so well that, to a certain extent, it feels somewhat believable that this old man is able to inflate a bunch of balloons to carry him to South America, and that he’s followed by an endangered bird and a talking dog. At no point does this seem weird and it would feel more bizarre if they went with something more realistic.
However, it does get a bit silly at times. The ending is sort of ridiculous. It sort of feels like they wrote themselves into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to end the movie. It’s like they had an idea of what they wanted the final few minutes to be but they couldn’t figure out how to get there with the first-half of the movie written the way it was. It’s weird in that a flying house is tolerable but planes piloted by talking dogs is lunacy. It hurts the momentum of the film and takes some of the charm out of it.
Up is an amazing film. Aside from the final climatic scenes, the movie is near flawless. Even though it’s a Disney film intended for family audiences, it can make the most serious person chuckle and the most macho guy cry like a baby. If you haven’t seen this movie already, you need to do yourself a favour and do so as soon as possible. Although, you must be warned that after you watch it, you’ll probably want to watch it again and again.