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Friday, July 24, 2009

UP - A Review

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” - Ecclesiastes 9:10

In Toy Story Pixar taught us that when our backs are turned every toy comes to life. Every kid wants this to be true! I remember many times as a 10 year old quickly turning around to see if I could catch my GI Joes in the act of acting! In Cars, Pixar succeeded in making me, a guy unusual among men in his total lack of enthusiasm for the automobile, actually enjoy 90 mins of talking vehicles (even though it drove me nuts that they had no opposing digits, therefore I couldn’t figure out how they ever managed to build any of the towns they lived in, let alone the roads!) In The Incredibles we got a dose of reality; that if there really were super heroes then no one would appreciate them and also the idea that most heroes are just normal people who approve Insurance Claims for lovely old ladies. Then there was Wall-E, an enormously beautiful film which succeeded to turn a rusty Johnny Five like tin can into something honestly embraceable before you realized that no one had said much of anything during the first two thirds of the movie, it was a visual breakfast lunch and tea of delights...

...I’m just pulling a few random titles from the top of my head, forgetting to mention A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo, Toy Story Two and the list goes on! To date Pixar hasn’t failed to impress me with animations that I can only describe as family friendly, mostly inoffensive and pleasantly free of Hippie Green tones in their colourful (and unambiguous) morality behind every feature. In fact the only film of theirs I didn’t enjoy was Finding Nemo, and that was because it had Australians in it (just kidding), it was just a little boring and once I got severely car sick after eating fish and chips when I was a kid so anything with fish in it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway, I’m rambling a bit too much here, but within reason. I want to stand with the Fiddler on the Roof and dance to a tune of “I love this movie!” Seriously. My experience with most Pixar films takes me back to when I was a teenager and I would be in a Mall, or School or the beach and I would see a pretty girl and then I couldn’t think of much else until a week later when I “fell in love” all over again with someone completely different. Without the hormonal overtones, that’s almost how I feel about Pixar Movies. Last year I would have told you that Wall-E was the most beautiful movie of its kind that I had ever seen, but after seeing Up my reaction has become “Wall-E who?”

Up is the story of Karl Fredrichson, at first a shy young boy who dreams of following in the footsteps of his Hero – the famous explorer Charles Muntz. Childhood games of make believe lead Karl to an abandoned and dilapidated building which has become the “club house” of Elle, an eccentric girl who loves to explore every bit as much as he does, and she talks a lot more than he does to. After the children’s instant attachment comes a montage of the next 60 or so years as they grow up, get married, buy the “club house” and spend the rest of their lives dreaming of the day they can just take off to Paradise Falls in South America (its just like America, only its South) but as the penny jar fills to fund their trip life throws its mishaps their way and their adventure moves further and further away from becoming a reality until Mr Fredrichson becomes a lonely old widower in a house that the rest of the world wishes wasn’t there. Evil developers have turned the surrounding neighbourhood into concrete and steel and in an effort to save his letter box Karl fends off a construction worker with his walking stick, drawing blood, leading to a court order for Mr Fredrichson to move into a retirement village. ..

Even though it sounds soapy so far I still managed to shed a tear or two, but my mate who was with me was as bored as a kid riding to Disney Land on the back of a snail. But then the magic happens. As the Rest home workers come to drag him away he releases hundreds of Helium filled balloons which lift his house from its foundations and carry him on the journey he’s longed for his whole life. But there’s a catch. Russel, a young Wilderness Explorer seeking his “assisting the elderly” badge, has hitched a ride on Mr Fredrichson’s balcony and the unlikely pair find themselves in an imaginative adventure that goes beyond what most of us dream after cheese and chocolate before going to sleep at night.

Karl lands his home on top of a canyon on the wrong side of paradise falls and makes it his mission to drag the floating home to the correct side even if it kills him. Along the way Karl and Russel meet a giant bird, a ton of talking dogs, the not so decrepit Charles Muntz and a whole lot of trouble!

I don’t want to spoil it. I only spoil the movies I don’t like, but important to this story is the back plot of Charles Muntz younger self leaving the civilized world in his Zepplin to capture the giant bird of Paradise falls, after scientists discredited his find of the birds remains he swears to never return until he has captured one alive...

The themes are just superb. This movie is about not taking your life for granted. We have two old guys at opposite extremes but both in danger of losing the same thing – the appreciation of what an adventure their lives have already been. Karl’s whole life flitters past him while he dreams of going south and he finds himself full of regret for not having adventured much past his own neighbourhood but he forgot the wonderful life and adventure he had with Elle before she passed away. On the other hand Muntz wastes his entire life pursuing a fantasy, a bird, never again to enjoy the company of people or the pleasantly mundane. In a memorable moment between Fredrichson and Russel the boy tells of a time long ago when he and his dad would sit on the curb eating ice-cream counting red and blue cars as they drive past. “I loved that curb,” he says, “I know it sounds boring, but I think the boring things are the things you remember the most.” Therein is the gentle reminder to all ages in the audience, make every minute count!

There is also the obvious theme of the way we treat our elderly. When the orderlies come to take Fredrichson away he tricks them by saying he wants to go inside to say one last good bye to his life long home. As soon as the door shuts one orderly says to the other “I bet he’s going to the bathroom for the 80th time today.” We see the absurdity of how our society condescends the aged, overlooking their lifetime of experience and relegating them to the status of children while juxtaposing this attitude with Russel, a real child, forced to accept the adult world of a Dad who is too busy for him and who lives with a woman who isn’t the boys mother, a boy who has worked tirelessly to get every Wilderness Explorer badge for the applause of an invisible father...

So in lieu of taking life for granted, old men who get demoted and children who have to grow up way too quickly I would like to share this story that I found on Wikipedia when I was looking up stuff on this film...

This June there was a 10 year old girl in Huntington Beach, California who was suffering from terminal vascular cancer. It seems her dying wish was to be able to see this movie but it was unlikely she would live long enough to see its release. Thanks to a family friend making a few calls, Pixar made a special effort to give her a DVD copy of the film which she watched with her mother. In truth she couldn’t see much of the film so her mom described it to her scene by scene. It’s reported the young girl died seven hours after...

So for practicing what they preached in this film, not taking life for granted, I give Pixar a 10 out of 10 for this effort.

And for entertainment a capital 8 because I never give out 10s!

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