Sunday, November 01, 2009

Pixar's tenth film, Up, is a glorious movie. It's moving, bright, colourful and manages to achieve the tough balance between appealing to both adults and kids. It's also the first movie this year which has managed to convince me to fork out and pay the exorbitant central London movie prices. Just as an aside, the Barbican cinema's the most affordable (£7.50 for a film, £9.50 if in 3D, after the online booking discount).

The animation is, of course, fantastic, but, given that this is Pixar we're talking about, this was never going to be in doubt. What's surprising is how touching this film is. 

It's not the most marketable film Pixar's ever made; 78-year-old Carl Fredriksen's dour visage isn't the most friendly or heartening of images... but, behind all of this lies a beautiful story of his marriage to Ellie which is told at the start of the film in an incredibly moving five-minute montage which, knowing as we do about her death just as Carl decides to take the final step in getting both of them towards their long-held dream of travelling to Paradise Falls in South America, is absolutely heartbreaking. I was crying like a baby when she died, which is not a good look when you're in a theatre full of kids. Fortunately, my eyes were hidden behind 3D glasses, although I did hear quite a few adults sniffling away as well.

The montage is quite possibly the most best storytelling device you'll come across. It's dialogue-free, the colour tones shift to indicate the period in which Carl and Ellie are living in, and there are a number of adult themes tackled in it which aren't glossed over, but aren't dwelled on overlong either. You get that great sense of true love, love that endures through tragedy, and, in a very poetic fashion, the abandonment of dreams as life encroaches, something that happens far too often in the real world.

The rest of the film is, amazingly enough, just as good. It's funny, it's crazy, it's a huge adventure, and, amazingly enough, there are moments throughout the film when you feel just as moved as you were in the beginning. It's a great story of how Carl sets out to fulfill their dream by flying their house via thousands of helium balloons to Paradise Falls. Unfortunately for him, he gets stuck with Wilderness Explorer Russell who's trying to earn the last badge he needs to advance to Senior Wilderness Explorer for assisting the elderly. Russell's the kind of kid every grumpy old person hates; he's eager, loud and just will never shut up ("Do you want to play a game? It's called See Who Can Go the Longest Without Saying Anything." "Cool! my mum loves that game!")

Amazingly enough, Carl and Russell manage to steer the house to Paradise Falls. Unfortunately, it lands a mile or two from Ellie's dream spot: right next to the top of the waterfalls. So, naturally enough, the two of them decide to walk the house while the balloons are still filled with helium to their intended destination. Along the way, they encounter a never-before-seen bird whom Russell calls Kevin for no reason whatsoever, and a talking dog called Dug (by way of a translator his owner built him). Dug is utterly hilarious with a constant chattering stream of consciousness occasionally interrupted by shouts of "SQUIRREL!" and subsequent staring off into the distance.

The villain of this film is Charles Muntz, a veteran explorer who was Carl and Ellie's childhood hero, and was, in fact the reason they met and got together in the first place. Charles is determined to capture Kevin and will not let anything or anyone stand in his way. Suffice it to say that this being a family show, Charles doesn't manage to achieve this and we go on to have a happy ending that doesn't feel pat or cloying in the least.

Up is dedicated to the "real life Carl and Ellie Fredricksens who inspired us to create our own Adventure Books".  The message behind the film must be how we shouldn't ever let life get us down, and to always pursue our dreams. More importantly, sometimes you need to realise when to let go of an old dream as there's a new one there waiting for you to discover what it is, and which will bring you just as much as joy as your long-cherished one. 

For me, Up is on par with Wall-E. I strongly suspect had I been watching Up under the same circumstances I watched Wall-E (i.e. with someone who would soon become my boyfriend), Up would probably have won out. After Up, I walked out of the theatre feeling incredibly happy to be alive, even though I was all by myself. There're not many films out there that have that effect on people, so I strongly recommend you get yourself to the nearest big screen and catch it while you can.

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