Uplifted by Upby Stuart Clark
Have Pixar ever made a bad movie? I don’t think so. Couple of average ones (Cars, A Bug’s Life) perhaps, but no real duffers. In fact, I reckon pretty much all of their output is undeniably outstanding. And 22 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, and 3 Grammys says I’m not the only one. Needles to say I was well up for Up.
What I love about Pixar flicks is the way they transcend generations. On the surface they’re kids films, movies full of wonder, colour and laughter. Yet just below the surface lurk some quite (and sometimes heavy), adult themes. Sibling rivalry in Toy Story; separation and parenthood in Finding Nemo; family dynamics and depression in The Incredibles; abandonment in Toy Story 2. I could go on. Up is no different.
Hilariously absurd, touchingly heartfelt
There are so many hilarious, utterly absurd things to love about this movie. The cantankerous hero (who smells of prunes); his balloon-powered flying house; the giant, chocolate-eating Bird of Paradise (female, but called Kevin); talking dogs with a squirrel fixation; the cone of shame…it’s regularly laugh-out-loud funny. But…
It’s also heart-breakingly touching. The first ten minutes or so are amongst the most moving you’ll ever see. Essentially they chronicle the young hero’s life from childhood to old age – a whole life story told in fast forward.
As a boy, Carl Fredricksen meets a red-headed tomboy called Ellie. They share a passion for adventure, grow up, get married, buy the house in which they first met, fix it up, plan a family, suffer a terrible grief then grow old together – all the while dreaming of going on an adventure to South America (“It’s like America, but South”). Trouble is every time they save up enough money for the trip, they have to smash their money-box to pay for some repair or other.
Then suddenly it’s too late. Ellie tragically passes away.
Marriage as an adventure
It’s such a poignan bit of movie-making, which for me sums up quite beautifully what being married is really about. That marriage is an adventure. It takes you up, and it takes you down. It can make you happy and it can make you sad. But that no matter what happens, you have each other – you’re in it together. Then one day one of you passes on, leaving the other to face the world alone. And what then?
Carl is left behind – not just by his wife, but by the modern world that continues apace around him – alone, widowed and stranded. Following a run-in with a contractor who wants to demolish his and Ellie’s house, Carl is court-ordered into a nursing home. Rather than be forcibly retired, he literally takes off; attaching his home to thousands of multi-coloured balloons and setting sail for Paradise Falls, the South American destination he and Ellie had always planned to visit.
Fantasy and fairytale
On the surface it’s pure fantasy and fairytale but for me, this reveals the crux of the movie. Up is a story about grief and mourning. Carl is literally tied to the memory of his beloved wife. He can’t let go of the home they built together. In fact for large parts of the movie, he drags it around with him – like the ultimate emotional baggage.
I won’t go into what happens next. You really need to see this lovely film for yourself. Just know that if you do you’ll experience something that’s vibrant, inventive and tragic, but always utterly uplifting.
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