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A Two-Fer Movie Review: Up (2009) & A Christmas Story (1983)

Updated on February 27, 2019
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The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.

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Up

"Up" is a film that I have watched multiple times, and will, no doubt, view multiple times more.

Friends, I shall try not to bore you with yet another review, gushing well-deserved praise for this film. As I have mentioned before, I pride myself on not necessarily "reviewing" films that tend to attract mass attention, and therefore mass-critique --- that is UNLESS I have a reasonable certainty that I can say something relatively new about X film.

What I will simply say here is this: There is an interesting similarity between the story "arcs" concerning a young lad called Russell, in both "Up" and "Deadpool 2," in relation to the primary lead male hero and his dead wife.

You see, Deadpool 2 reminded me of Up in this regard.

Now, there are at least some of you -- I hope -- wondering just what in Sam Hill I'm talking about. This makes a quick run through an order.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Those of you who saw this film, will recall that Deadpool comes to the aid of a young mutant, Fire Fist, aka Russell. Deadpool eventually liberates Russell from a kind of concentration camp for mutants, run by an abusive, anti-mutant, religious fascist.

Among other things, Wade has to protect Russell from Cable (played by Josh Brolin), a brilliantly skilled and determined warrior from the future (a "Winter Soldier" type complete with metal arm). Cable has come to our time, because in his, Russell has grown up to be a mutant villain who, among other things, has killed Cable's family, having deliberately incinerated them with his fire powers.

Cable simply wants to kill the child Russell, before he grows up to be the man Fire Fist, who kills Cable's family.

In this film, Deadpool's wife is killed. Wade's love for her is such that he wants to join her in the afterlife.

Basically, he is given to understand that he cannot pass over to the other side, because his work in this world is not finished.

What is his unfinished business?

Save Russell --- both from Cable's vengeance and from his own past as an abuse survivor, which, in one timeline, turns him into a murderous mutant villain.

By saving Russell, Deadpool finds his purpose in life. He can and will go on, despite the loss of his wife. Importantly, it is the spirit of Wade's wife urges him on this path.

Continuing the Comparison Between "Up" and "Deadpool 2"

Those of you familiar with Up, will recall that Carl Fredrickson, a retired balloon salesman and widower, is concerned to take his house --- by balloon --- to South America, in fulfillment of a lifelong dream he shared with his late wife, for exotic, exciting foreign adventure.

Along the way Carl picks up a young Eagle Scout, a little boy called Russell --- a bit reluctantly at first, before eventually giving his heart entirely to the fatherless lad.

In both Deadpool 2 and Up, the protagonist lead male heroes both end their adventure with having assembled "teams/new families," of sorts.

Wade's Team/New Family

  • Jinx
  • Cable
  • Fire Fist (Russell)

Carl's New Family/"Team"

  • "Kevin" (the giant multi-colored bird)
  • "Dog" (the talking dog)
  • The young Eagle Scout (Russell)

It is interesting to note that, in Up, the "spirit," in a manner of speaking, indirectly urged Carl to go on living with passion and purpose. Carl looks at the scrapbook and sees that Elle, his wife --- apparently at a time when her illness was very advanced, well past any hope of recovery --- wrote to her husband: Thanks for the adventure. Now go have another one.

There's more I could say here, of course, but I won't. Suffice it to say that this beautiful film --- the very reason people go to the movies --- ends with Carl and Russell (along with Kevin and the dog) sitting on the curb in front of an ice cream shop, calling out the colors of passing cars.

And then there is a montage of Carl being a part of young Russell's life, and, in turn, finding his own zeal for living rekindled.

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A Christmas Story

The truly masterful films make it all look so easy, though we all know very well that it is anything but.

A Christmas story is one of these effortless-looking gems. It has all the ingredients that you need in a movie, whether it is Christmas-themed or not: likable characters doing likable things, for likable reasons.

All this film is, is about a family's build up to Christmas Day. That's it, but it is, somehow, very satisfying --- at least to this "reviewer."

The first thing to say is that I like all of the central characters: Ralphie (the oldest son, played by Peter Billingsley); Randy (the second son, Ralphie's brother, played by Ian Petrella); the "Old Man," the father (played by Darren McGavin); and the mother (played by Melinda Dillon).

I like these characters individually and together. Their chemistry is fantastic.

Like Up, A Christmas Story is a film I have watched multiple times, and will watch multiple times again.

This is a deceptively intriguing film we have here. What I mean by that is that this film is more sophisticated and, weirdly, karmic-based story, than would appear to be the case on the surface.

The thing that Ralphie wants for Christmas is a special kind of toy rifle BB gun. His approach appears to, sort of, send his wish up into the cosmos, in the hope that it will return to the Earth, in the form of seeds of inspiration implanted into his parents' minds --- thus compelling them to buy the BB gun for him.

If you have never seen the movie, you're probably thinking: What on God's green Earth is he going on about?

I should just mention that Ralphie seems to be in fifth grade --- somewhere thereabouts.

Anyway, Ralphie's approach is rather fascinatingly indirect.

For example:

  1. He mentions that he wants this BB gun, for Christmas, to his mother. When she expresses disapproval, claiming that he would put an eye out, Ralphie backs off, claiming that he was only kidding, and that he would be content with some "tinker toys."
  2. His class gets an assignment to write an essay entitled: What I Want for Christmas. Ralphie's plan seems to be to write the most powerfully eloquent, fifth-grade Christmas wish essay of all time --- the kind of essay that rejuvenates his teacher's faith in teaching. No doubt she will be moved to share such an exalted discourse with his parents, who, similarly overcome, will have no choice but to buy the lad the BB gun.
  3. Finally, his last approach is to simply ask Santa at the mall for it.

Here is what makes Ralphie likable:

  • Though he devotes a large amount of psychic energy to bringing his desire into fruition, it is not an all-consuming obsession.
  • Though he wants this BB gun more than anything else, at the moment, he does have other things going on in his life, and we, the viewers, are allowed to see that. He has his family, friends, and other interests and projects.
  • Though he wants the BB gun with every fiber of his being, he is never a brat about it.
  • And finally, near the end of the film, when it looks like he is not going to get the toy rifle for Christmas, HE IS OKAY WITH THAT. Yes, he is mildly disappointed, but you can see that he understands that there is always next Christmas, and that he appreciates the family and home he has, as well as those things that he did get for Christmas. He knows that he had an enjoyable day with his mom, dad, and little brother.
  • He knows that he has no cause to complain, and does not do so. This is why, I was glad when he was surprised with the BB gun after all.

Now, there is more I can say about this wonderful film, such as favorite heartwarming, funny scenes. But I will not; I'll stop here. The most important thing, anyway, is the strong likability of the central characters, and the main central character, Ralphie, in particular. That is the factor this movie hangs its hat on.

Thank you for reading!


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