Thursday, November 19, 2009


If you were going to design a perfect movie for me, it would almost certainly include zeppelins, biplanes, talking dogs and flying goggles. That doesn't mean it would be any good (I'm looking at you, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.)

But with Up, the computer-animated adventure from Disney/Pixar, they've managed to get the mixture right.

At first glance, you'd think Up was just another animated kid's flick in the mold of Cars, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. Except it's not.

Not by a long shot.

From the moment Up opens, you realize all your expectations have been thrown out of the window.

The movie starts off telling the story of Carl Fredickson and his wife Ellie - and when I say 'story' I mean the whole story.

From meeting to marrying and spending a lifetime together. Pixar manage to cram an entire movie into fifteen minutes of dialogue-free footage - and when that segment ends, anybody who says they don't have tears in their eyes is lying.

And that's just the start of the movie. Up opens where other stories end. After a live well lived, widower Carl has gone from bright-eyed boy to curmudgeonly geriatric. His life is one of loneliness and guilt - distraught that he and his wife never took the adventure to South America they'd dreamed of their whole lives.

So when fate takes a final swing at old Carl, he does what any self-respecting balloon-salesman would do. He inflates twenty-thousand helium balloons and sets his home of sixty years soaring high into the sky - to finally make that voyage he and his late wife had been talking about all their lives.

Up is very nearly a perfect movie. It hits you hard in the solar plexus on a variety of levels. It's a rip-roaring adventure, a timeless love story and a not-so-subtle metaphor for the burdens we carry living in sophomoric suburbia. What could be a clearer message about not clinging to material things than a grumpy old man, who can't rescue his friends or save the day because he's got everything he owns - quite literally, in the form of a floating house - strapped to his back?

If Up has one shortcoming, it's that it's not a movie for kids. Although marketed as such, the sad and slow first fifteen minutes (which give more than a few nods to the finest of French cinema) won't hook short attention spans for long. But I suspect the writers of Up never intended it to be a kid's movie in the first place. It's something more - and I love it for that fact.

Up is available on DVD now for $18.99

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