Carl Fredricksen, a retired balloon salesman, is part rascal, part dreamer who is ready for his last chance at high-flying excitement. Tying thousands of balloons to his house, Carl sets off to the lost world of his childhood dreams. Unbeknownst to Carl, Russell, an overeager 8-year-odl Wilderness Explorer who has never ventured beyond his backyard, is in the wrong place at the wrong time – Carl’s front porch! The world’s most unlikely duo reach new heights and meet fantastic friends like Dug, a dog with a special collar that allows him to speak, and Kevin, the rare 13-foot tall flightless bird. Stuck together in the wilds of the jungle, Carl realizes that sometimes life’s biggest adventures aren’t the ones you set out looking for.
Everyone’s heard of ‘Up’, but, remarkably, I’ve only just seen it – and now I understand the clamour: it’s really a wonderful film. It’s so good, in fact, that it restored my faith in Pixar, which had died after seeing ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘The Incredibles’. It came to the point that I had completely tuned out ‘Cars’. I’ve since seen ‘Ratatouille’, which was good, but not as great as their first few films were.
But I’m glad I picked this one up: the animation is terrific, the voice acting is spot-on, the pace is picture perfect and the emotional balance between melodrama, comedy and thrilling adventure is set just right.
I was very impressed, in fact, with how they managed to swiftly move us through periods of melancholy and regret into buoyantly happy territory with total grace – it’s no mean feat, and I’m not at all surprised to see which films the writers are credited with: only one of them has written for the Pixar films since, and including, ‘Finding Nemo’ (and the one who did, might (conceivably) have honed his writing chops since). So they made a great team.
It’s all a bit too polished at times, but it’s all done with care. I even liked little touches like the fact that the child protagonist appears to be Asian, but it’s neither established nor is it a factor – he just is. And, honestly, that’s exactly the sort of thing that I like to see: pure acceptance, without any excuses or pre-conceived notions. He’s just a kid, like any other, with his own personality.
It was also nice to see an octogenarian (?) in a leading role in a popular family movie. While they had him do many more things than could probably be allowed by his age and lifestyle, it was nice that they didn’t box the character into a more stereotypical role; they played him off as an older kid, complete with dreams and ambitions – but also with a few frailties which are traditionally age-related, but that which apply to anyone (hearing loss, difficulty with walking).
And the adventure, although a little bit on the ridiculous side of the spectrum, is a lot of fun. With a serviceable dose of suspension of disbelief, the viewer can easily accept that a house can be flown with helium-filled balloons, that an older man could tug along on his journey, and that everything wraps up neatly by the tale’s end. The film generates enough goodwill that one wants to believe and, thus, all the details that would foil a regular film fall to the wayside.
As far as I’m concerned, ‘Up’ hits all the right notes with surgical precision. It’s as if it was tailor-made to be a feel-good movie – which, let’s face it, probably is the case. Nonetheless, it didn’t feel too contrived and its charm and emotional realism won me over; it’s pretty much impossible to feel down about ‘Up’.