With every Pixar release people tend to prophesize if this is the one that fails on every level, but to this date they still haven’t. Sure there are some minor movies on their track-record like Cars and A Bug’s Life but none of their movies are bad. And that’s saying something as the big bucks are being waved in their faces to make an endless string of sequels to merchandise-movies like Finding Nemo. Yet until today they keep on creating original heart-warming stories for young and old. Up is the latest to do that tradition justice.
Up starts off with an overview of Carl Fredricksen’s life which basically consisted of his relationship with childhood friend Ellie and working a balloon stand. This is a beautiful montage in which we see the ups and downs of their relationship and when Ellie has died at the end of the scene you feel sorry for this old grump who’s house is tha last one standing and is surrounded by a construction site where skyscrapers are being built. When Carl is about to be taken to a nursing home he equips his home with thousands of balloons and sets off to Paradise Falls, a location Ellie and he dreamed of going to one day but that never came true. Carl is stoic when he finds out he has a stowaway, little boyscout Russell.
Up is a delightful story only the boys at Pixar seem to be able come with today. While other movies usually follow the talking animal trend Pixar gives us movies about mute robots and elderly people. Up starts off with a montage of Carl’s life with Ellie. We see how they meet, marry, are unable to have children and grow old together until Ellie dies. We’re just 10 minutes into the movie and have just witnessed something beautiful, but sad. This montage sets up Carl’s character. We witness how he’s a grouch to everybody but understand him. Desperately hanging on to memories of the past that are established in objects like a rusty old mailbox they made together decades ago.
Up’s most powerful moments are when Carl does something in praise of Ellie’s memory, at this moment the sadness of the character reaches out into our hearts. It’s like the death of Bambi’s mom only on a recurring 10-minute basis. Of course the movie is once again visually astounding and has lots of moments that will make you laugh out loud. The movie does seem to have a small identity crisis as it doesn’t seem to know if it wants to appeal to adults or kids. It tries both but doesn’t quite succeed. The story of Carl and Russell will appeal to adults, but the adding of a villain including a large amount of minions to the story is purely for the kids. When roaming the jungle of Venezuela Carl and Russell encounter a dog who can communicate through a collar that translates the dogs thoughts into speech. A brilliant solution to not having the animals talk like they normally do. However, it turns out that this and the other dogs also are able to make and bring dinner and fly fighter planes which is stretching the suspension of disbelief pretty far as these dogs walk on all fours all the time except when having to do human-only things. When watching Up it sucks you so much in that you won’t immediately notice all the plot-holes which is part of its strength. But when over-thinking Up you can question a lot, mostly concerning the villain: He was in his 20’s or 30’s when Carl was a child so he must be in his 90’s nowadays yet he has no trouble at all while living on a mountain for over 50 years accompanied by dogs. He has not been seen for all this time so how did he get that food. Having only a zeppelin in his possession, how did he create the collars that translate the dogs thoughts and concerning the dogs: he lives with them, yet they all are purebreds; Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs, Rottweilers etc. I think that he should have be surrounded by mutts. Even the ending is kinda weird as it seemed that nobody ever cared about Russell being away for days.
These are just small stains on what is a fun story with a big heart at the center of it. I love Up and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s only 90 minutes long and doesn’t have the grand epic feeling of movies like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Wall-E who all clock in at around two hours but also have multiple story-lines. Up is more of a straight forward, smaller movie dealing with the emotion of living in the past and letting go, fulfilling dreams and making new friends. Despite its plot-holes Up is a treat and another home-run for Pixar.