Up (2009)

Posted by on Dec 30, 2011 in Fantasy/Adventure | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: A lot more deaths than are typical of Disney, one of which is the saddest since Bambi’s mom.

Up is one of the most unexpected delights ever brought to screen, and in the realm of movies conventionally thought to be intended for youths, may also be the single greatest of its kind to speak to adult couples. But therein also lies a double-edged sword. Kids will most definitely fail to share the same overwhelming enthusiasm of their adult counterparts. They just won’t connect on the same level. That “level” being the title of this collection. In terms of “feeling like a kid again,” Up is a masterpiece.

A frumpy and shy youngster sits in a theater watching a newsreel in what we can only assume precedes an adventure serial in a Saturday matinee. It seems this youngster is infatuated with explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), wearing a flight hat and goggles that most closely resemble the real-life hero. He wears them everywhere, using his imagination to create mini adventures in his everyday life and mimicking Muntz’s signature catchphrases and movements.

Even when the scientific community declares Muntz a phony, the boy’s passion never subsides. Instead, he vows to become an explorer himself. It is around this time that the youngster meets a counterpart, an adorably quirky, endlessly courageous, and hilariously talkative young girl who has the same affinity for Muntz, flight, and exploration. (She’s a perfect match to his cowardice and silence.) Together, they become the sole members of an imaginary club in which they log their adventures in a scrapbook.

In one of the most masterful montage sequences of the past 50 years, the duo gets married, fixes up a small house, and does all the lovey dovey stuff couples do. She works with animals, and he with balloons. They decide to have kids. She’s infertile. They decide on the adventure route, and save money. But life happens … as does death.

If you’re not easily wowed by the power of cinema, Up will be the one that finally does the trick. I can damn near guarantee that you’ll be in tears within 10 minutes. Up has the most tearjerker opening in the history of film. Period. And most of it is done without a single word of dialogue. If you aren’t impressed by that amazing bit of filmmaking, then nothing will impress you. Jerk.

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Now, decades later, Mr. Fredricksen (Ed Asner) spends his days alone. And cantankerous. Just waiting to die. Regretting a life not spent following the dream he and his wife planned together. He’s the kind of character every neighborhood has – the one who yells at kids that step in his yard and is eventually forced to move into a retirement home. It sounds like a bummer of a movie, but don’t worry. It turns around once a determined boy scout (Jordan Nagai) arrives at his door, and they’re suddenly thrust into an unexpected adventure.

With this unlikely duo on a long, up3strange trip, this is Pixar’s attempt at a road movie; both characters have a great deal to learn from each other as they fight and banter. The kid needs a father figure, and the fogey needs … well … anyone. But it’s obviously more of a traditional adventure.

As usual, this is another visual delight from Pixar, starting with the moment thousands of balloons lift Mr. Fredricksen’s inner-city home, to the final moments in a lush jungle. It is likewise a delightful dark comedy, with moments to lighten the mood such as Mr. Fredricksen’s sinister daydream about how he can get rid of the scout.

Kids will find appeal in a colorful, rare bird and a pack of talkative dogs (mostly Dug, voiced by co-director Bob Peterson). Young-uns will find them a riot, no doubt, but I found them rather annoying after a while and their gags pretty cliché. (Though I gotta admit, the line “I just met you … and I love you” was pretty good.)

Also co-directed by Monsters Inc.’s Pete Docter, and drawing inspiration from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World, Up has a little bit of something for kids and teens, and a lot of something for anyone looking to feel like a kid again.

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