Monday, June 8, 2009

Up: Uplifting for adults and children alike

Warning--some spoilers ahead.

So my wife was out of town this weekend and it was just me and the two kids. Needing to kill some time and to take my youngest's mind off the fact that mommy was away, I brought them to see the new Pixar animated film Up. And I found myself enjoying the film far more than I had anticipated.

Animated films are catering more and more to parents as well as their children (a smart move, given that we're stuck in the seats too), and I found Up to be not only very entertaining and enjoyable, but thematically ambitious and, to some degree, rather adult.

In addition to containing a good deal of comedy and fun, Up is also a film about coping with the death of a loved one. I was very moved by the opening 15 minutes of the film, which is a brilliantly rendered montage of what life inevitably holds for us all. I can't recall another animated children's film that confronts the viewer with growing old, getting sick, and dying. Up not only reminds us of our mortality, but spends the next 80 minutes or so facing it head on, examining how we can move on with the next phase of their lives. I'm not sure if all kids will understand what's going on (my older daughter did, but not my youngest, who's four), but its certainly an ambitious undertaking.

Up is also about finding meaning in our lives, even when we don't accomplish all we had set out to do, as well as the importance of turning the page on the past. It does so through contrasting Carl Frederickson, the old man and the central figure of the story, with Charles Muntz, Frederickson's boyhood hero. Muntz was wronged as a young man by the scientific community who question his discovery of the fossil remains of a large tropical bird. Humilated by the experience, Muntz spends the rest of his life searching for a living specimen in the hopes of exonerating himself and showing up his critics. Muntz' monomanical search renders his life lonely and empty, and indeed his mode of transportation--the zeppelin Spirit of Adventure--is full of skeletons, a symbol of the dry, dessicated past of which he cannot rid himself.

Likewise, Frederickson clings to his house after his wife passes away, and as the film moves on it becomes a literal albatross that he drags from place to place. But unlike Muntz, he eventually finds the strength to turn the page. There's a great scene near the end where, piece by piece, he unburdens his spirit of the heavy furniture of his past and is able to soar again.

If this sounds all rather deep for an animated film, well, it is, which is why I left Up pleasantly surprised, and why I highly recommend it (your kids will love it too).

4 comments:

David J. West said...

I had my doubts, but I think on your recommend I will take my kids to see it.

Falze said...

My wife and I found it to be wonderful. More laugh-out-loud moments than I ever imagined, as well as more than a few 'awwwws'. We had no real idea what to - SQUIRREL!! - expect going into it so were pleasantly surprised at the depth of story.

3-D wasn't as 'in your face' as Coraline, for example, but was fun and non-intrusive.

James Maliszewski said...

A truly awesome film.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I did enjoy Up very much (and obviously recommend it, David).

Falze, the version I saw was not 3-D. My kids were sad at first as they love 3D glasses and having things pop out of the screen at them, but they quickly forgot their disappointment once the movie started. I guess it only had a limited run in 3-D.