Pixar has yet to make a really bad movie. There’s been a couple that I’ve been rather indifferent on, but when the company sits down to really do a good story, they really do a good story. Watching Up last night with my girlfriend helped to reaffirm that no matter what the subject of the movie is, it’s likely going to be a very good one. While Up doesn’t necessarily top The Incredibles, Toy Story or Wall-E for one of my favorite movies from the company, it’s certainly one of the better films that I’ve seen from them.
When watching the first trailers for the film, I was struck at how odd the film seemed at first glance. A man decides to lift his house out of the city using balloons? Where The Incredibles focused on the nostalgia of the past, Wall-E at some of the dangers of rampant commercialism and the use of environmentalism, and so forth, Up didn’t appear at first glance to really have any sort of interesting theme. Looking back, I should have known better, because I’ve enjoyed some of their other films where the stories weren’t readily apparent from the early peeks at the film. Up is a story about adventure, about living life and appreciating what you have, but also keeping in mind that sometimes, you get far more than you expect. Up accomplishes its story in more ways than I can recount, in a wonderful and emotional story that is cute, funny and sobering at the same time.
The opening moments of the movie are possibly the best, and saddest moments that I’ve seen in one of Pixar’s films. Carl gets married to Ellie, and we watch as their life moves along with them, but the tragedy that they aren’t able to achieve that one last dream that they have always had: something that motivates Carl to escape from the life that he’s had and go on one more adventure. As he gets his house to float away with thousands of brightly colored balloons, he picks up a small stowaway, Russell, a small asian boy who is a Wilderness Explorer (A lightly masked version of a Boy Scout) who needs just one more badge. Where Carl is tired and cynical, Russell is almost literally bursting with enthusiasm and excitement for his surroundings. Along the way, both have their expectations drastically changed, and by the end of the film, everybody learns something in the end.
What made the movie for me, however, was Dug the Golden Retriever. His introduction of: “My name is Dug, I have just met you and I love you,” absolutely stole my heart because it’s so close to how I imagine most dogs (especially my own) think. He’s hyper, excited and an absolutely sweet dog and is by far one of the more memorable characters out of the Pixar films. The heart of the character really lies with the core of all Pixar films: enthusiastic and entertaining, and I kind of wish that the whole movie was about this funny talking dog.
What struck me the most was some of the central themes of the film, revealed through the interactions between Russell and Carl, is living out one’s dreams. Carl and his late wife, Ellie had long wished to go on some sort of adventure, but life got in the way. At the same time, Russell has enthusiastically worked to collect all of his badges, and the two are swept up on an adventure, with each other cancelling the other out. Over the course of the film, Carl regains a certain amount of enthusiasm, but also comes face to face with the true nature of his dreams, while Russell finally gets to have an adventure, and to have a sort of father figure that he really hasn’t had. The film acts as a really good bit of social commentary there, which I really appreciated.
However, the real message for Up comes right at the end, when Carl discovers that his wife had filled her journal with pictures of herself and her love, noting that their life together was the adventure, better than any mere trip that they might have gone on. Life itself is an adventure, and that things can come out differently than you expected, and that opportunities shouldn’t be passed up as they come up. Russell says something along the same lines towards the end, that it’s the little things that you remember, not necessarily the exciting trips and events that happen in your life, but the slow and boring parts. It’s very true, and helped sit the movie into the entertaining and revealing at the same time category: the best sort of film, I think. Unlike where some of Pixar’s other films have had more tangible themes and stories, Up has an incredibly personal and enlightening story that to me, seems to hold far more meaning to it.
In the end, Up is a fun movie, certainly one of Pixar’s stronger ones. It’s one that I would…. Squirrel!