Under normal circumstances, I do not like to write a review that contains spoilers. But knowing what to expect might heighten your experience of this film.
In Pixar’s tenth animated feature film in association with Disney, ‘UP’ starts out showing us a movie theatre news reel – for we are in the 1930’s. This is where we meet the young Carl Fredricksen. The newsreel highlights explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). On his way home, with his imagination full of adventure, he hears another adventure bound voice coming from an abandoned and boarded up house. Carl goes in to discover, Ellie, who is just as passionate about adventure and their idol Muntz as he is.
I understand that disappointment and death is part of life as well as a theme for Disney animation. From the death of Bambi’s mom to the comic misadventures of Donald Duck, a Disney flick is likely to be an emotional rollercoaster. The problem I have is that we spend the first 15 minutes of the film in classic slit-your-wrists Disney fashion. It seems that ‘UP’ takes an overzealous attitude and hits the viewer with an emotional mallet. We watch as Carl and Ellie age, learn they can’t have children, become infirm and then Ellie dies with Carl never having fulfilled his promise to take her on an adventure to South America. Carl is now alone. Hardly seems like a movie for young children.
During this montage, though, we learn how much Carl and Ellie loved each other as well as Carl’s penchant for balloons – being a balloon salesman. Now retired and with Big Business after his house, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) is forced to deal with the construction foreman voiced by John Ratzenberger, continuing his tradition of being the only actor to do a voice in every Pixar film. Carl faces trouble after he assaults a construction worker for almost demolishing the mailbox Ellie had hand painted. The law decides it is time for Carl to be placed in a retirement home. But before they can collect him, he unleashes thousands of balloons fastened through the chimney and the house takes flight. He is finally headed toward Paradise Falls in South America.
Good ol’ cartoon physics at work here. Some masterful (or overly bored) person decided to do some calculations. “If Carl’s house was approximately 1600 square feet, and the average house weights between 60-100 pounds per square foot, it weights 120,000 pounds. If the average helium balloon can carry .009 pounds, it would take 12,658,392 balloons to lift his house off the ground.” However, they do not go into how high off the ground the house would actually get – or adding the weights of the characters.
What Carl had not counted on, however, was a stowaway. Russell, an overeager Wilderness Explorer desperate to get his last “Assisting The Elderly” badge in order to
advance to Senior rank, was on his porch when the house took flight. Russell is Pixar’s first Asian-American character to be voiced by an Asian-American, newcomer Jordan Nagai. Nagai got the part because he was a chatterbox like the character and wouldn’t shut up during auditions. Even though Russell has amassed a large array of badges, he has never left the city and confesses he has never been able to camp outside. It appears that the main reason he wants to become a Senior Wilderness Explorer is so that he may spend time with his absentee father after the “pinning” ceremony. Again, we are assaulted with more negative emotional ties.
So now with a crotchety old man and a young boy with a spirit that cannot be dampened, all we need is a talking dog to have a classic Disney Theme. Fear not, we are indeed introduced to that talking dog (Dug) 40 minutes in. Now, throw in a rare 13-foot tall flightless bird trying to get back to her babies without being captured or killed. . . that’s it, stop the car, I want to get out.
Despite all the negative aspects of life displayed, you do get to laugh. Not often. But it does happen. I think the viewer can get more enjoyment out of ‘UP’ if they go into it knowing what to expect. Sadly, I did not have this luxury.
So. . . . Cyrakitty says: