There are two things that I rarely do. One, is that I rarely cry, particularly in public places. If I’m viewing a movie or I’m seeing a play and I’m moved to tears, I cry quietly. The second one is that I rarely come out of a film bubbling with over-the-top praise.
Congratulations to the people at Pixar for managing for those two things to happen.
In my mind, I keep a catalogue of some films that made a strong impact on me and I watch, or would be willing to watch, over and over again. Among that list is “All About Eve”, “Ratatouille”, “Wall-E”, “Henry Fool”, “No Such Thing”, “The Great Mouse Detective” –which I once wrote an analysis of, “Some Like It Hot”, “Manhattan”, “The Umbrella’s of Chernbourg”, and “Milk”. I can say with strong support that “Up” is joining that list.
Why would a film that has a talking dog, a cantankerous old man, and a “Wilderness Explorer” make that list? Because it is a work of art.
Sure, the film has a very simple plot. As a young boy, Carl Fredricksen (voiced for most of the film by Ed Asner), has a taste for adventure after seeing newsreels of his hero Charles Muntz. Carl meets a young girl named Ellie and they have adventures and eventually get married. She wants to go, someday, to Paradise Falls, where Muntz has returned in search of a bird. They save up the money, but due to events they keep having to break the jar. Eventually, she dies, leaving Carl alone.
Their rather picturesque house is situated in the middle of a construction zone. They want Carl to go away, he doesn’t want to do so. One day he smacks a crew person with his cane and is told to go to the nearest retirement community. (Shady Oaks. God bless those people at Pixar, the brochure looks like one I’ve seen for communities in the city I live in.) Carl, a former balloon salesman at the zoo, decides to hoist his house high in the sky and go off to Paradise Falls.
However, he has a stowaway; a rather pudgy young boy named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who is in need of his “Assisting the Elderly” badge. They get to South America and encounter a (female) bird named Kevin and a talking dog named Dug (voiced by Bob Petersen). What happens there is a very slow melting of Carl’s heart and the coming to terms with the villainy of Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer).
Yes, it might sound cliched with the old-man-not-being-so-grumpy plot, but the visuals and how the story is told is incredible. The film does not feature that much dialogue, nor does it feature the rather grating pop culture references you find in so many animated films. (Although, I laughed at Carl commenting about doing something without “rap music and flash dancing.”)
I also had the privilege of seeing it in 3-D. I happen to have a strong disdain for 3-D effects after seeing “The Jonas Brothers 3-D Concert Experience” and the previews were annoying for me with flying objects coming towards my face. But here the filmmakers utilize 3-D to give the film depth and texture.
And, mainly because of the fact that Pixar never lowers the bar (except with Cars), it has so much detail. From the eyebrow hairs on Carl’s eyebrows, to the fur and texture on the dogs, to Paradise Falls. The shot of that place when they land looked so real, I thought that maybe it was live action.
What also helps the film is Michael Giacchino’s score, which for most of it is a rather light waltz, or so it sounds, with several variations. It adds mood and gives it a poignant feel with the main theme and a sense of fear when there needs to be with differing music. To be honest, the main melody keeps dancing around my head.
To say the least, I think “Up” is one of the best films I have ever seen. I could say this year, but I’ve only seen four films so far and it being better than one of them doesn’t say much.
So, quick go and get a ticket. It’s so good, I intend to try to catch it again in the movie theater.