‘Up’ and Away

Posted in Uncategorized by H on October 22, 2009

While we now call Pixar’s productions ‘animated films’, I had always interpreted that as a euphemism for ‘extremely impressive cartoons’. Pixar arose out of Disney, and no matter how high it soared, it was always standing on the shoulders of works like The Lion King, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid. Every time I discussed the ‘Best Pixar Movie’, something in the back of my mind always crept up and said “but it just isn’t as good Lion King.” Every movie, that is, until Up came out this year.

I’m not saying that Up is better than The Lion King. What I am saying is that, unlike every other Pixar movie, it doesn’t even cross my mind to judge Up in the same category. Every other Pixar movie follows the fantasy, mysticism, and wonder of Disney: toys that are alive, monsters, insects that talk, fish that talk, superheroes, rats that talk and cook, cars that talk, and robots that oddly enough, don’t talk. Yet, amazingly, Up arrives with human characters, and not even ones that are super strong or invisible or can bend like rubber bands. In fact, Up’s main protagonists are an elderly man named Carl Fredrickson, and a boy scout named Russell. Furthermore, the only things I found wildly unbelievable were the talking dog collars (which isn’t even that unrealistic) and how strong and agile the antagonist is given that he should be almost a centenarian.

The opening scene to Up was the best opening scene to any movie I have ever seen. I’ve yet to see a life portrayed so thoroughly, so intimately, so movingly and so fully in the entirety of any movie as I have in the first few minutes of Up. If it had been a short film that ended right there, Up would still probably be my favorite Pixar production. The film doesn’t use extravagant metaphors or talking animals to present themes of death, mortality, loneliness, and regret; rather, it hits the audience bluntly with them. In these first few minutes, I was genuinely startled to be confronted by completely ‘grown-up’ fears. And for the first time ever during a Pixar movie, the fact that I was watching animation didn’t even cross my mind.

The rest of the movie is just as masterful as the intro. Up is a story about life itself, not just some adventure. Unlike any other Pixar protagonist, Fredrickson is complicated, multi-faceted, and lost. While the plot is superficially driven by a flying house and a flamboyant bird, it’s really towed along by a lack of purpose. Fredrickson has no idea just what it is he really wants, or even that there’s anything left on this Earth for him to want. Yet, amazingly, what’s left by the emptiness is not a void, but an massive realm of possibility.

I’m not saying that I don’t love the other Pixar movies, or that they in any way aren’t great films. But Up is in a league of its own. Every other Pixar movie has ultimately been targeted at kids, with a few innuendos thrown in to equally entertain the adults. Yet, coming out of Up, it didn’t even cross my mind that I had seen a kids’ movie. The most I’ve ever left another Pixar movie with was a cheerful story and a few hours of incredible entertainment. After seeing Up, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days, and I can count the number of other movies that’s true for on one hand.



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