Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When Up first hit the theaters, I wasn’t very interested in seeing it. It came out during the 3D craze and I wasn’t up for seeing yet another animated 3D film. I didn’t even really bother finding out what the movie was really all about. Now I feel a bit silly, because when nothing else was on television the other day, I decided to watch Up and now I know just what I was missing all this time.
The movie centers around Carl Fredrickson who we meet as a shy, young boy (Jeremy Leary) with an inventive spirit. When he meets a boisterous, young tomboy named Ellie (Elizabeth Docter), it initially seems as though they have little in common until they realize that they are both fans of the international explorer Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Both are obsessed with Paradise Falls, a location in South America where Charles F. Muntz has been accused of fabricating the skeleton of a huge, exotic bird. The two grow close and eventually become a couple and marry.
They start a Paradise Falls fund, planning on moving there some day, but life gets in the way. Flat tires, broken legs and a number of other expenses later, and they are no closer to their goal. However, despite the inability to have children, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner in this stage of Carl’s life) and Ellie enjoy a happy life together. Just when it seems that they are able to go on their trip, Ellie becomes ill and eventually dies, leaving Carl alone in the home they created for themselves.
Some time later, an urban development firm attempts to buy Carl’s house from him, but he refuses to sell. The firm begins their development project anyway and when a construction crew unwittingly destroys an object of sentimental value to Carl, he loses it, assaulting one of the crew. This gives the firm the opportunity to sue Carl and gain control of his home…or so they think. Carl is an inventor and a former balloon salesman. He rigs his house to balloons and when the folks from the Nursing Home come to pick him up, he escapes in a house lifted by hundreds of helium balloons.
Unfortunately, Carl was not counting on a stowaway – a “Wilderness Explorer” named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who has been offering to help Carl out because helping an elderly person would earn him the last badge he needs. Carl wants nothing to do with Russell and tries to think of ways he can get rid of him, but they fly into a thunderstorm. Barely surviving the storm, they somehow end up just where Carl wants to be – Paradise Falls. While exploring, the unlikely pair come across something even more unlikely, a giant exotic bird chased after by a talking dog (Bob Peterson), who just happens to be owned by Carl’s hero, Charles F. Muntz.
This animated film, though targeted toward kids, was actually more for adults. Every adult could relate to wanting to meet their childhood hero and some can even relate to the discovery that the hero of their childhood is not all that he/she is cracked up to be. They can also relate to saving up money for a special item or vacation, only to have to that “wish” fund be depleted by some sort of emergency expense. They can understand the value of long term love and the desire to spend the rest of your life with someone and make every one of their dreams come true.
Kids will enjoy the talking dog and find the idea of going on an adventure in a house lifted off of the ground via balloons pretty exciting. But I agree with the director of the film, Peter Docter, when he says that the real adventure in this film can be found in the relationships forged between the characters. In life, the most interesting adventures you will ever embark on come in the form of the relationships you enter into with others.
Although I found the talking dogs and the situations between Carl and Russell to be funny, I realized that I focused more on the love story of Carl and Ellie - his determination to keep his wife with him, to not change anything that involved his life with his wife and to fulfill their lifelong dream and his difficulty with letting her go after her death. To me, and probably most adults, this was the most important theme of the film.
Now that I’ve seen this movie on television, minus all the extraneous 3D effects, I now realize just how much I was missing. Up has a terrific storyline, filled with life’s little lessons, a heartwarming love story and some truly funny moments for the whole family. Up is a great movie worth taking a gander at. Might I suggest seeing it without the 3D – it allows you to focus more on the story rather than the visual effects and makes this film that much more entertaining on an intellectual level.