Here we have another one of my all-time Pixar faves, and this one has a lot to do with the idea of how the elderly might put up with the younger generation. It manages to provide a movie one might say is made for "grandparent and grandchild" as opposed to just a standard family flick. In that sense, it's actually pretty unique, and I find myself hard-pressed to come up with other titles that do it quite like this. This is one of those Pixar films that really does get me deep in the feels every time I watch it. It's probably safe to say that it has that effect on many.
When we all saw the trailer for this, it looked like a fun movie coming to us from a solid Pixar lineup, including director Pete Docter, who sincerely made a name for himself with this movie, forever implanting himself in my head as my fave Pixar director. The reason for this is that he's not afraid to get deep with his films and speak to his whole audience like adults, while maintaining a fun, childlike innocence. His films are sort of always fun on the surface, but have something deeper going on within them. This one would veer away from what the trailer showed us, looking very much like a children's fantasy adventure and punch us straight in the heart with its opening sequence.
This sequence involves a boy who grows up with a girl, they eventually get married, she becomes ill, and eventually passes away. The pair were adventure-seekers, and their goal was to visit Paradise Falls, Venezuela, but life kept getting in the way. After she passes, he becomes a bit of a recluse - the now grumpy and stubborn Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner). Even though he's surrounded by construction, Carl refuses to relocate to any sort of retirement community, holding a close connection to the house he and Ellie spent their lives in. After a bit of a scuffle, Carl is court-ordered to move into a retirement community to live out his last days. Remembering his promise to make it to Paradise Falls, however, Carl creates an elaborate set-up of balloons that lift his house into the sky, and allow him to float away from all of his problems.
Accidentally joining Carl on his adventure, is Russell (Jordan Nagai), a kid in the "Wilderness Explorers" (basically Boy Scouts) who just wants to help Carl so he can get his "Assisting the Elderly" badge. He provides much of the comic relief here as the curious and kind kid, and his contrast to Carl is often hilarious. I find myself with a big grin on my face when I listen to a lot of their interaction. Of course, a lot of their interaction is also kind of deep, and the film tackles some complex issues that sort of boil down to what it is to deal with love and loss, and interestingly enough, 'Up' does it in three very different ways. So fair warning, but the following could contain spoilers.
The first is the obvious; Carl loses Ellie, his beloved wife, in death. The second has to do with Russell losing his father to a woman who isn't his mother. The third, and probably most overlooked, is when Carl meeting his hero, Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) who ultimately ends up being the villain of the film. Through all of this, however, Carl and Russell persevere, and it's as though the film is out to tell us that even though we all experience our own losses in our own ways (and we all have to, as a part of life), there's always going to be that light at the end of the tunnel for us. Russell makes a friendship with Carl who becomes a father figure to him. As for Carl, he stands up to his former hero, ultimately learning he wasn't necessary for inspiration all this time. However, Ellie always was, and her inspiration to him continues even in death. The photo album scene might be one of the most touching moments in film, let alone Pixar's library.
The film isn't without its fair share of over the top, and even pretty childish antics. This is seen mostly with that exotic bird, and dogs that have the ability to talk through their collars. At one point, these dogs even fly little airplanes. But because of the deeper moments of this film, for some reason, we can look past all that and just deem it "cute". Things don't have to make sense here (to some degree, anyway) because you still manage to walk away from it thinking about your own life, yet almost with a guarantee of a smile. This would go on to win the 5th Best Animated Picture Oscar of Pixar's library, making 'Cars' the only real speedbump in their track record since 'Finding Nemo'. This would also get nominated for Best Picture that year, making it only the second animated film in history to make it into the category. Funnily enough, the third and last to make it into the 'Best Picture' category is next up on the list!
Writers and Directors