Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life is an Adventure ... Even If You Have to Have a Real Adventure to Realize It (Movie Review: UP)

Russell: I remember the boring things better."
Reactions to Pixar's UP fall into two camps. They found it disappointing or boring on some level or really liked it.

Tom and I saw it last night and fell into the latter camp. I am not saying UP is equivalent to Wall-E or The Incredibles but it is an engaging and likable film with a lot of good messages for today.

For those who, like me, have been avoiding any plot points other than those revealed in the trailer, I will keep the synopsis brief. Carl Frederickson is a house-bound widower who wants to honor past dreams by traveling to the wilderness in South America. Russell is a small boy who ascribes to the high goals of being a Senior Wilderness Explorer but has one more badge to get to achieve his goal. Why Carl floats his house with balloons and just how Russell winds up on his porch, I will leave for you to discover. Those who enjoy 1930's style adventure such as that found in serial books or films of the time will readily recognize the impetus that launches Carl and the type of situation our two heroes find themselves immersed in once they land the house. The jungle setting, the heroine in peril, the good hearted native who helps with indepth knowledge of the environment, the mad scientist hidden away from civilization a la Dr. Moreau ... these are all beautifully realized and translated for us in UP.

Underlying the story is a deeper look at modern issues. Is it the small things in life that make it an adventure worth living or must one have a recognizable "Adventure?" Those who are "marginalized by society" are not always those that spring to mind when we hear the phrase. It can also be a very normal old man or little boy whose basic needs are being ignored. Likewise, we see that it is the very sense of community and subsequent responsibility, even when it seems forced upon us, that completes us most and makes us the most free. Some issues are given a shorter shrift but are still there for reflection. For your personal discovery, I merely point to Russell's comment about "wilderness" and the sorts of badges that are being won by the Wilderness Explorers.

Hannah found the movie very sad and, having heard this comment from others, I was braced for something quite tragic. I found no such thing. Not wanting spoilers I will say that what others found sad, I actually found to be inspirational.

For Rose, the movie was ruined by the talking dogs. Keeping in mind the mad scientist/Dr. Moreau-ish theme, this really didn't bother me until a sequence toward the end. Perhaps this is because I found what the dogs were saying to be so authentically the way that we would imagine them thinking. She also found the dog jokes to be repetitive. Perhaps they were. If so, I didn't feel it when watching the movie.

My advice with UP is to come at it with as few preconceptions as possible. If possible, watch it in an audience filled with children, for full impact. And enjoy.

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