Up In The Air With Up
A Real Adventure
Being that I’m a fan of all Pixar movies, it went without question that I would see their new movie, Up. That I would enjoy it as much as I did was a surprise even to me. Up is one of those movies that offers something to everyone.
The story begins with a serendipitous meeting between the child version of the protagonist, Carl Frederickson (voiced as an adult by Ed Asner) and his future wife, Ellie. As they are both are wannabe explorers and unwavering fans of famed explorer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer) they immediately hit it off. Within minutes of their meeting, Ellie makes Carl promise that one day he’ll build a house near Paradise Falls in South America for them to live in. As the story progresses, we see them wed, come to terms with not being able to have children, try to handle the effects of old age, and, for Carl, deal with the loss of a spouse. When it looks as if he’s going to lose his house to developers, he inflates and attaches hundreds of balloons to his roof and, once in air, sets course for Paradise Falls. A small problem arises when Carl learns that young Russell, a Wilderness Explorer trying to earn his “Assisting the Elderly” badge, has accidentally tagged along. Will Russell ever return home? Will Carl die at the hands of his childhood hero, Charles Muntz? Such suspense!
Rarely can you say that the previews for a movie did not do the movie justice. Yet, with Up, that is the case. In the previews, you are lead to believe that the movie is simply about an eccentric old man and the innocent boy who gets roped into journeying with him. While this is true, there is so much more to this movie. Carl is a multidimensional character who, after losing the love of his life, is left scratching his head. For the first in his life, he alone must decide what to do next. Should he waste away in the only house left on the street or should he defy the expectations society has of an old man and set out on an adventure? Like with many of us, it takes a push from an unexpected person (In Carl’s case a lawsuit filed by a construction worker) to get us to act on our desires. Russell, is the kid we all have been at some point, but that Disney normally doesn’t portray (at least not as a co-star) in a movie. On the surface, he is a round, energetic kid who seems to have only one goal in life, to become an elder scout. Looking more closely, we see a sad, neglected kid who longs for attention from a nonexistent dad. These characters may be computer animated, but they are more real than most people walking this planet.
We’re supposed to take away a few things from this movie. The first is that, if you put an old person and a child together, they will form an unexpected bond. This is both a plea for the elderly to mentor young people and for young people to not write the elderly off as old and useless. In other words, just because the elderly require assistance and don’t act the way they did when they were younger it doesn’t mean we should give up on them or consider them inactive. The second is that it is never too late to fulfill a promise made to someone you love. Carl believed that he had failed by never taking his wife to their childhood dream destination. By venturing to this place sans his wife, he not only fulfills his promise to get there one day, but also the promise that his life wouldn’t end once he lost her. Too often we forget that though our loved ones are no longer with us physically, they remain beside us in spirit indefinitely. A third is that, in the end, a big adventure is never as amazing as the day to day you share with someone you care for. Carl and Ellie spent their lives planning for the big trip to the Falls. Only once Carl gets there does he realize that their life together was the biggest adventure of them all. Lastly, we are forced to see that heroes are never as heroic as they seem. As a child, we see an actor or a police officer do something special and we instantly set the goal to become just like them. One day though, we realize that they are just human and, for that matter, more flawed than we could ever be. Sometimes, like Carl, it takes nearly our whole lives to figure out the truth about someone. For others, it takes far less time.
Up is a beautiful movie, not simply because of the animation, but because of all that it stands for. I urge you to go see this movie and escape into the world of Carl. I’m telling you though, it may not look much different from you own.
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