Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Movie Review: Up

But first, the short....

Partly Cloudy starts off with an homage to the opening scene from Dumbo: the air is filled with storks carefully carrying bundles and depositing them on windowsills and doorsteps. Inside the bundles are babies: human, kittens, puppies... After they are taken in by their parents, the storks fly away, back to their clouds where, we discover, the babies are made.

The system works pretty smoothly, except for one poor stork whose cloud specializes in more aggressive baby animals like alligators and sharks. The stork is worse for wear and finally takes off for another, sympathetic cloud.

The first cloud becomes angry, causing a storm. But surely the stork wouldn't just abandon his cloud! Would he?

Like all Pixar shorts, there is no dialogue. But the visual expressions are very well done. Although I wondered if today's kids know the storks-bringing-babies story.

Now to the featured presentation...

Up starts with a Movietone Newsreel detailing the exploits of Explorer and Adventurer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). A young boy, complete with a leather aviator cap and goggles, watches wide-eyed and breathless. On his way home, dreaming of adventure, he hears a voice coming from an abandoned house, shouting directions to an unseen crew. Cautiously he steps in and meets a young girl, also wearing an aviator cap and goggles, who introduces herself as Ellie (Elie Docter, the daughter of director Pete Docter, who was 7 at the time). Ellie is an irresistible force and the young boy finds himself swept along in her fantasy. When he finally does find his voice, he can only say his name, Carl, and not much else. She dares him to retrieve his balloon; in doing so, he breaks his arm. She climbs up to his window later that day and makes him a member of her Adventurers Club, whose membership pin is a grape soda bottle cap on a pin.

The next several minutes goes through their life from young adults, with all the possibilities of life, to newlyweds, through the tragedy of miscarriage, to Ellie's death. And Carl (Ed Asner) is now sitting in his living room with Ellie's empty chair next to him. His big adventure is walking to the mailbox every day.

And when he does, we see that his house is surrounded by the construction of modern office buildings. Carl isn't about to sell his house, leaving all memories of Ellie behind. The Construction Foreman (John Ratzenberger) is sympathetic, but there's not much he can do. There's a confrontation and (shades of Miracle on 34th Street), Carl ends up bopping someone on the head. The Man in Charge seizes the opportunity to get Carl committed to an old folks' home.

But while Carl is old, he's not witless. He hatches a plot to float his entire home off to South America--specifically to Paradise Valley, where he promised to take Ellie.

And it works. There's only one small hitch: a Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai), who only has to assist an elderly person to get his "Helping the Elderly" badge. Russell is on Carl's front porch and Carl has no choice but to take him inside.

Russell is bright and eager and annoying. Carl wants to be left alone with his memories. Russell wants to help and, of course, makes the situation worse. But they do make it to Paradise Valley, just not in the spot where Carl wants to be. So they start walking, "towing" the house behind them.

Along the way they meet a strange and exotic bird that Russell decides to name "Kevin." Carl tells Russell Kevin can't join them--but he does. And then they meet a dog, Dug (Bob Peterson) who is wearing a collar that allows him to talk. Despite Carl's protests, Dug joins the group.

Dug is not the only talking dog. One is a particularly nasty Doberman named Alpha (also Bob Peterson) who is leading the search for Kevin.

Will Carl get the house to its ideal spot? Will he warm up to Russell, Kevin, and Dug? And whatever happened to Charles Muntz anyway?

Hubs and I saw this movie in 3D, which brings a nice, realistic feel to the movie. There isn't anything jumping out from the screen at you, so the movie doesn't scream "3D!" The characters are well-developed, especially Carl and Randall, once again proving to me that it's the story, not the effects, that make a movie great. I was teary-eyed at the end.

Fenton's is mentioned and is a real ice cream parlor in Oakland, apparently one of the hang outs of the gang at Pixar. Besides ice cream, Fenton's also has excellent crab salad sandwiches on toasted sourdough, served only on Fridays.

Like Wall*E, stay for the credits.

This movie is rated PG and there are a couple of scenes involving growling dogs, which might be too intense for young or sensitive children, especially in 3D. One little girl behind us started crying.

Overall, positive messages, although Russell's dad is an absentee father. And our family now has several new phrases in our family vocabulary, including "Squirrel!" and the Wilderness Explorer call.

On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Tickets. Basically, I went to work Monday morning and told everyone they had to see it.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

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