Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Up is perhaps the first Pixar movie I can think of that is specifically aimed at a general audience rather than child viewers. Sure, the other films have a broad appeal. But none of them seem especially geared towards adults as much as this one. Its storyline focuses on love, commitment, loss, and renewal... adult subjects that will certainly go over the heads of young ones. Ed Asner voices Carl, a crotchety old man who, as we learn in Up's prologue, wasn't always this way. Like in last year's Wall·E, this sequence is almost completely devoid of dialogue, and recounts the story of Carl's lifelong romance with Ellie, an audacious girl who fanned Carl's smaller spark for adventure into a grand flame. Their dream was to search for a long missing hero, Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), who had disappeared in South America. But like John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Their meager savings end up redistributed towards more urgent needs, and dreams get put on hold. And one day, Ellie is gone. Carl is alone, holding onto everything he owns, his house a mausoleum erected in Ellie's memory. Enter Russell (Jordan Nagai), a Wilderness Explorer (Pixar's version of a Boy Scout). The last badge he has left to earn is the one for assisting the elderly. Russell's timing brings him into Carl's life at the moment he embarks on an harebrained exploit to South America, flying in his house, which is held aloft by hundreds of helium balloons. It's an evocative image, dredging up childhood dreams of magical journeys for any adult. And the movie pays it off unpredictably, as Carl and Russell end up forming a nuclear family of sorts with an exotic bird named Kevin as the mother, and a talking dog named Dug filling the role of family pet quite hilariously. But most impressive is the natural way the filmmakers forge the bond between Carl and Russell through each character's personal loss, Russell's being the distancing from his own father after his parents' divorce. These may seem like common points of identification nowadays. But any longtime Disney film fan can tell you that divorce is usually a taboo subject in their animated films. Adult or child, Up has a lot to offer anyone seeking a gentle reminder that life's adventures begin when and where one isn't looking.