A summation of a film about an old man who struggles to understand his purpose in life as he nears the end of it ... by Pixar.
"I have no regrets for anything I've done.
I feel like I've lived as good as anyone.
Remember me, remember me as best you can.
So I may live ... outlive my lifespan."
Here is a movie that caught me a little off guard, even though I was expecting something special while walking in. Up doesn't come close to your average flick-for-kid. The themes in this move are for more mature that what you would normally find in an animated flick. I think it says alot about the people at Pixar when they can release an animated flick intended for children, with some seriously adult themes. I don't mean adult in a sexual and promiscuous way, but adult in the sense of they explore every day things that adults must contend with as a part of life, and a lot of that has to do with loss, and loneliness.
Take one moment, for instance, in the very beginning. It happens during a dialogue free montage (accompanied by music) involving Carl (Ed Asner) and his wife Ellie, who has no speaking role, though her presence is surely felt throughout the film. They decide together that they want a child, and as any future parent would, they rejoyce and prepare the room for the new member of their family in advance. In the very next cut, you see Ellie and Carl at a Doctor's office. Ellie is sitting in a chair, sullen and seemingly stressed. Her face is buried in her hands, and Carl stands behind her, comforting her. This is sort of an odd scene to find in an animated flick, let alone an animated flick financed by Disney. Sure, the standard for family films financed by Disney often involves the death of a mother, but the loss of an unborn child? I can only imagine the amount of kids looking to their parent asking, "Why is she sad?" Maybe I don't give kids enough credit for putting the pieces together.
The rest of the film plays off of Carl's loneliness as an old man, and after Ellie has departed. Carl is a man who has always wanted to explore, and through Ellie, that kinship was met. The two would save their extra change to go on adventures together, but it seems as though the banalities of life got in the way, and that money would have to go to other things. After Ellie, Carl is alone, depressed, and recieves advertisements in the mail for retirement homes. (Come live here and die with people who pretend to understand you!) I hesitate to call the man an old coot, because the film presents his depression in context. The audience can very easily identify with why he is the way he is. Finally, after a scuffle on his front lawn, he is court ordered to move to a retirement home, and he takes it upon himself to tie his house to thousands upon thousands of balloons so that he may float away from this world off to the unknown land of Paradise Falls. I think that idea, in and of itself, comments on the idea of wanting to take off before your body is biologically ready. He'd rather float away to paradise than be stuck on this spit of land. Part of me wants to cue Elvis Costello's I Want to Vanish.
He soon discovers that a kid has stumbled upon his floating house, and through the child, he finds someone who has a love for adventure as much as he does. Perhaps a child that he never could have with Ellie, or perhaps a surrogate for Ellie, although he constantly talks to the house as if it were his wife. I've commented on the idea of loss and loneliness a lot in this review, and with the kid, it's the same story, but to a degree that kids could more easily apply themselves to. Although, his loss is only hinted at without giving too much away.
I suppose you could say that Up is about a lot of things. It could be about two old men searching for something in their fleeting desperate lives. The other old man being a cranky and exiled explorer looking for an elusive creature in order to be accepted back into society. It is one of the very few summer flicks I've seen so far this year that is about the people, and about how they choose to make their way through their lives. But I dwell too much on the psychological, and have now written a review that has become so long that I must get to the meat of the critique itself before this becomes yet another Isikins novella about how much I like or dislike a movie at any given moment. But if you'll excuse me, I must go to work first. I will get to the meat when I come back. :)
Okay, everyone ready?
Up is, more or less, a tale of two old men and a young boy searching for meaning in what seems to be a life of exile, misunderstanding, and loneliness. I can see this as a milestone for Pixar, simply for the fact that the themes in this film run so deep that many children may be left uncertain of what is happening. However, the film does cater to that younger audience through the adventures Carl and Russell have together. Russell (Jordan Nagai) is an important addition to this trio of adventurers. He provides not only someone for kids to understand and relate to, but provides Carl another human being to share new and exciting adventures with, since poor Ellie is no longer around and able to provide companionship in that specific department. The story is very well put together, and leaves enough room for the characters to grow into themselves, all while keeping up the Pixar standard of being family friendly, fun, and clever.
I would go so far as to say that this is some of the strongest character development I have seen in an animated flick. Last year's Pixar masterpiece (I use that term loosely here, as Pixar seems to top itself every year) Wall-E proved that long, long sequences without dialogue (or humans) could prove to be an adventure all on it's own. We discovered the characters of Wall-E and EVE through their quirks, their beeps and boops, and through their emotiveness. (Two of the most emotive robots you will ever see.) Up takes it a step farther in taking the powers of the emotive human face, and applying it to very real, and very heavy situations that adults must deal with in life. Even Russell grows into himself when we realize that the poor boy has had to force himself to grow through experiences that aren't meant to happen to a child. But, life happens to everyone, and it seems that through all of the adventure, bizarre creatures, and massive flying exploration vehicles, the moral of the story seems to be built around the idea of dealing with life as it ebbs and waves.
If nothing else, you must see this movie based on it's color palate. Pete Docter, the director, uses colors in this film in a fun way, but not without depth and symbolism. You wouldn't believe the aura of sadness that penetrates the story throughout. The floating house, in particular, is nothing more than a consistent reminder of Carl's late wife, Ellie. He often speaks to her as if she is the house. The relationship that Carl has with his house is oddly moving, and it plays to our ability to empathize with this cranky old man. It really is a testament to Docter's direction when a seemingly cliche act that one can see from a mile away, like looking through a photo album, can thoroughly break your heart.
A short note on the casting: pitch perfect. Not many people know about Ed Asner, and Justin Nagai is a complete newcomber to this whole movie thing. This is a testament to Pixar's ability to tell a great story without having to rely too much on big named superstars and half-assed story telling, like in DreamWorks's Monsters vs. Aliens. Look and compare the cast, here. We have Ed Asner, Chistopher Plummer, and Justin Nagai. In Monsters, we have Seth Rogen, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Will Arnett, and a plethora of NBC actors. Maybe this is sort of a nitpicky thing, but it seems that Pixar is more concerned with telling their story correctly, instead of having it fist-fed to the public by slapping Seth Rogen's name on it and marketing the hell out of it.
If you only plan on seeing this movie once, see it in 2D. I, like many other movie goers, believe that this 3D technology is nothing more than a way to bring the masses in greater numbers. There is no other reason to put the movie in 3D, and to be completely honest, the 3D is sort of distracting, and takes away from the movie experience. I would very much suggest seeing this film in 2D. Definitely.
As this is an animated flick, the acting doesn't really go beyond what the actors themselves say, because it is the animators who are making the performances colorful. As I mentioned earlier, however, it is Asner and Nagai who effectively give voice to these characters, and through their verbal delivery, the audience is able to connect with these characters as deeply as they need to. And in Up, the depth is truly profound. So here, it is a mixture of successes with the animators at Pixar, and the voice talents that use their audible abilities to give these characters a life that is as honest an interpretaion as any.
As I write this, I am realizing that the review portion here is pretty serious. I'm sorry dear pluh readers, but I think Up deserved a review worth it's weight. So, the above was my best attempt. There is a song called 'Lifespan of a Fly' by an incredibly talented band called The Bird and the Bee. The song, while it is literally about the life of a fly, plays to be much more than just a cute song with an interesting concept. I believe that this song should be the theme song for Up simply because it shares many of the same themes. The song resonates through out the entire listen, and haunts you, much like Ellie haunts Carl by way of the floating house. It's about departing from the world, and coming to terms with the fact that there is not much time left. Through Carl's memory of Ellie, we are able to understand where his hurt comes from because he is remembering her as best as he can. Carl, as I said earlier, speaks to the house as if it were Ellie, and through that act, is allwoing Ellie to outlive her lifespan.
|Originality||A completely original story, perfectly told.||5|
|Acting||The voice acting couldn't be more spot on.||5|
|Soundtrack||Fun, memorable, and tonally in congruence with the film.||5|
|Effects/Presentation||The color palate is unreal in this film, and the animation is brilliant, as is standard with any Pixar flick.||5|
|Storyline||For one, it's action packed and perfect for kids. Second, one of the most emotional and intelligent flicks I've seen this year.||5|
|Isikins Worthy||Absolutely 100%. Enjoy all the 5's, Up. You deserve it.||5|
|Final Verdict: 5|