UP

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Overall Impression – Woooweeewowow!  What’d you expect?  It’s Pixar!

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Carl.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: achieve his and his late wife Ellie’s dream of living on Paradise Falls. Personal: develop a connection to somebody. Private: find the true meaning of adventure.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Charles Muntz and his talking dogs, Carl’s own inhibitions, and plenty of lesser antagonists.

What happens if he fails? – Muntz will kill them, capture Kevin (a rare bird), and Carl will never fulfill the promise of adventure that he and Ellie shared.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – After Ellie passes away, Carl’s left totally alone in the world.

Wanderer – Instead of moving to a retirement home, Carl decides to fulfill his promise of adventure to Ellie: to live on Paradise Falls!  So, he creates an airship by attaching thousands of balloons to his house and flies off on his journey!  Unfortunately, so does Russell, a ‘Wilderness Explorer’ who was stuck on the porch!  As Carl learns to handle the ultra-enthusiastic, yet slow-witted Russell, they navigate to a strange land, and the only way Carl can pull the floating house to Paradise Falls is with Russell’s help.  Along the way, they encounter a rare bird which Russell names Kevin, and also a talking dog named Dug, whom they soon discover is owned by Carl’s childhood hero, legendary hunter/explorer Charles Muntz!

Warrior – When Carl and Russell discover that Muntz is not only a little insane, but has been hunting Kevin, it’s time to RUN!   They escape the crazed explorer and his dogs,  but Kevin injures her leg.  Russell implores Carl to help Kevin back to her chicks, which he does, only for Muntz to track Dug, capture Kevin and set fire to Carl’s house.  Angry and refusing to break his promise to Ellie, Carl finishes his journey to Paradise Falls instead of rescuing Kevin.  However, Carl discovers that he already realized his promise: Ellie’s dream adventure was their wonderful life together, and her last wish was for him to start his own adventure.  Carl’s about to apologize to Russell, only to discover that he’s left alone to rescue Kevin!  Desperate to fix his mistake, Carl flies his house after Muntz, and has to fight though his flying zeppelin and scores of fighter dog pilots to rescue his new friend!

Martyr – Having lived his adventure with Ellie, Carl is able to let go of his house in order to save the day.

AND, IN THE END…

Oh, did I love this movie.  UP kicks off with one of the most involving opening montages I’ve ever seen.  From that moment on, you’re hooked, you’re involved, and THE FOUR QUESTIONS are addressed in an elegant, engrossing and economical way:

We meet Carl as a kid.  We meet Muntz (who’ll become Carl’s enemy).  We understand Carl’s desire for adventure. We meet Ellie.  She and Carl swear to one day go on an adventure to Paradise Falls.  They grow up, life gets in the way, then we lose Ellie, allowing us to understand the driving force behind the entire movie.  By the end, Carl’s a lonely shut-in whose only wish is that they’d gone on their adventure.  Already, we’ve either answered or begun to answer the FOUR QUESTIONS, and have a deep understanding of Carl’s PERSONAL, PRIVATE and PROFESSIONAL goals!  In short, Pixar’s ability to render characters we care about is second only to their skill at making exposition feel like anything but.

When it comes to Pixar movies, I can’t help but notice how the simplest approach tends to be the most compelling:

— Who better as Carl’s nemesis than his childhood hero, Charles Muntz?

— What better pairing than Carl and Russell as allies?  They’re polar opposites at first glance, but really they’re exactly what the other needs to become whole.

— What better way to make Carl a martyr than for him to sacrifice his house?  Carl thinks it’s his only connection to Ellie, and notice how it’s tied to Carl’s PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL and PRIVATE goals?  That house was so integral to Carl’s character and a story that engrosses us that it’s a huge feat when he gives it away.  It’s almost like losing a beloved character.

Finally, to the 3D, which was by far the best I’d ever seen.  I won’t say you’ll have more fun seeing UP with an added dimension, since the 3D accompanies what is already excellent.  That being said, the visuals are so smooth and painless (Gone are the headache days!) you’ve really got nothing to lose aside from the extra $$$.

Check UP out, 3D or no!

– Dan Pilditch

2 Responses to “UP”

  1. David Goulet June 11, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    Dan,

    Can’t argue with your review. This is a well told story and a joy to watch. The opening backstory sequence was brilliant. But I still feel the movie lacks something. The only way to describe it is to use industry jargon, but it felt ‘soft’. Maybe it’s a personal thing.

    Anyone else feel this way?

  2. Chris July 5, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    This film without question should be nominated for Best Picture; it was one of the best films I’ve seen in many years. Pixar continues to be the standard-bearer for great storytelling in Hollywood; they can’t pay those guys enough.

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