Monday, June 1, 2009

Way on Up

If you haven't yet, go see Pixar's Up. Whatever you're doing now can wait. Seriously.

To be honest, I was a little worried from the trailer. Pixar trailers do that to me. The one for Up makes you believe that it's a film about a cranky old man, a precocious boy scout, and their aimless journey through jungles via floating house.

Would you think from the trailer that it's a film about a man who's fighting to give his dead wife the one thing he thought she wanted? About a boy desperate for his father's affection? About the simple adventure of life? And yet it's all that and more, and I haven't gotten to the talking dogs.

I love the talking dogs.

The film opens with a newsreel, and the introduction of Carl and his future wife, Ellie. Ellie as a girl is all static hair, spunk, imagination, and adventure. She's Anne of Green Gables, the next generation. The characterization is so strong that when the movie proceeds through a silent sequence chronicling Carl and Ellie's adult life together, we have a firm sense of who this woman is and how completely she loves Carl.

Even after she passes away, she's still very much a part of the film's essence.

Carl is getting old. He has no interest in Shady Oaks retirement home. So little interest that the male aids who come to pick him up (one with an excellently animated mullet and scrub tag sticking up) get a little surprise from the AARP member whom they underestimated.

Thing is, Carl's got a stowaway in the form of a "Junior Wilderness Explorer" who's missing his Assisting the Elderly badge. Together, they make their way to Venezuela to fulfill what Carl believes to be Ellie's lifelong wish.

In the jungle Carl and Russel discover Charles Muntz, Carl and Ellie's childhood hero. Think of a mix of Indiana Jones, Charles Lindbergh, and Captain Ahab - that's Charles, floating around in his dirigible, hunting his very own white whale.

Charles keeps company with the talking dogs. Did I mention that? Yeah, I know it's the collars that talk, but whatever. The dogs are communicating in English (although there is potential for Japanese). And sure they can cook and perform tasks that would conflict the average family canine, but under it all, they're still dogs. Ever wonder what a joke would be like if a dog told it? You'll find out.

What goes down in that jungle is the meat of the movie. Two old men, fighting for their pasts, one of them ready to make the sacrifices to have a future. Loss. Destruction. Change. Hope.

And squirrels. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a movie?

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