Up the Movie: Uplifting, Upstanding, and Up There for Best Movie of 2009

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer this Christmas, here’s a great gift choice: the Up DVD. It’s the latest Pixar masterpiece and IMHO, their greatest. It’s a movie for all ages so it will fit nicely into stockings of all feet sizes. I think because of the theme: “out with the old and in with the new,” it appealed to me on a personal level. Since I have been dealing with an “old man” in my life lately, I enjoyed comparing the mannerisms of my Dad to the main character, Carl.

Besides the stunning, bright, and textured visuals, amazingly realistic animation, incredible voice talents of the actors, terrific sound effects, and overall superb attention to detail, what makes this movie even more fantastic is a lollapalooza of a story—a LOVE STORY tucked inside a QUEST STORY with lots of HUMOR.

The movie is about Carl, an adventuresome boy who meets his equal, an adventuresome girl named Ellie. They are fellow explorers. Ellie shows Carl her scrapbook titled My Adventure Book, filled with articles and pictures about traveling to Paradise Falls in South America, Ellie’s dream adventure. The second section of the scrapbook is titled “Stuff I’m Going To Do”—that Ellie plans to fill in when she has adventures.

The first twelve minutes of the film is a recap of Carl and Ellie’s relationship—an especially well-done segment. Fast forward, Carl and Ellie get married. They build a beautiful house and life together. Carl sells helium balloons. Ellie works at a South America exhibit. Together they dream of children but for medical reasons cannot have any. They concentrate on Paradise Falls in Venezuela and start a money jar to pay for the trip. Then life happens (worn out automobile tires, home repairs) and the money jar gets depleted over and over again.

The scene that advances the years is brilliant: it’s a close-up of Ellie’s hands adjusting Carl’s necktie. The ties change and change and change and by the time the last tie is tied (and the camera moves to Carl’s face), Carl and Ellie are senior citizens.Up-Carl-Ellie

Carl realizes Ellie has never realized her dream. When they were children, he did promise her (and crossed his heart) that he would take her to Paradise Falls. He buys two tickets to South America. But he is too late. Ellie dies. Carl is alone in life.

Next, Carl is confronted by “progress,” a construction project being built around his house. The developers are trying to push Carl out. After Carl accidentally smacks one of the workers (as they fight over Carl and Ellie’s mailbox), the authorities want Carl to move to an old folks home.

A boy knocks on Carl’s door. His name is Russell. He’s a Wilderness Explorer trying to earn a badge (the last of many) for assisting the elderly. Carl wants nothing to do with Russell, who is an adorable, lumpy, innocent, and kind-hearted eight-year-old. (My heart goes out to this kid the first time I see him and hear him.)

Carl sends Russell on a wild snape chase. The next day the old folks home personnel arrive to take Carl away. But he has a surprise for them. He has tied thousands of helium balloons to the roof of his house. It is a spectacular scene when the balloons are released and Carl’s house lifts off the ground. Carl is headed to South America!

But wait—there’s a knock at Carl’s door—up in the air! It’s Russell again. He’s stuck on the porch and eventually Carl lets him inside.

The Carl-Russell expedition to South America is exciting, scary, and heart-warming. (The animation of the balloons, a thunder storm, the clouds and mountains is a wonder to behold.)

Along the way Russell befriends a giant bird he names Kevin (although Kevin is a mother) and a dog named Doug—both terrific characters.

The villain of the movie is Charles Muntz, a disgraced explorer and hero of Ellie and Carl’s as children. Muntz lives in an elaborate cave near Paradise Falls. He is trying to capture Kevin to restore his former glory. He uses a pack of vicious talking dogs (headed by an Alpha Male Doberman type) to hunt down Kevin.

Muntz has no qualms about killing Kevin, Carl, and Russell. There are confrontations galore as Carl tries so fly/land/drag his house to Paradise Falls. The house is a symbol of Carl’s life with Ellie and he feels he owes it to her to make sure that house gets to Paradise Falls. I suppose you’ll have to watch the movie to see if he succeeds!

There’s a pivotal scene in the character development of Carl—when he tries to make the house lighter (so the balloons can still carry it aloft.) He starts tossing all the stuff out of the house onto the ground—like furniture and a refrigerator. When Carl leaves behind his red easy chair and Ellie’s floral high-back chair, you understand that Carl is leaving his past behind and is now living for the present.

Thus, by the time the movie ends, the love story is between Carl and Russell. The scenes of Carl and Russell at the Explorer Ceremony (when he gives Russell the Ellie badge) and the two of them eating ice cream and counting cars tug at your heart and made me misty-eyed.

The best scene of the movie is right after Muntz tries to burn down Carl’s house. He is inside, putting things in order. He sees Ellie’s book. He looks at the cover (My Adventure Book), lets out a huge sigh, and tears up. He feels he has disappointed Ellie.

Carl gets to the part: “Stuff I Want to Do.” Much to Carl’s surprise, Ellie has made entries into this section. The pages chronicle their marriage! Carl is stunned that Ellie considered their marriage an adventure. As he flips the pages, the pictures of the two of them as a couple are a joy to look at. There is one photo of them in their easy chairs, holding hands as old folks, glasses perched on Ellie’s nose, both of them smiling. I said to ye ol’ hubby man as we watched, “That’s how I want to end up.”

(NOTE: Ellie wears a purple sweater with a fuchsia top underneath. She also wears a fuchsia headscarf in the movie. I’m pretty sure that’s because Ellie is a Fuchsia Woman!)

The caption that Ellie wrote is: “Thanks for the adventure. Now go have one of your own.” So endearing.

The Pixar people have outdone themselves with this film. Congrats to Pete Docter and Bob Peterson (co-directors and co-writers) and their super-talented colleagues. This movie is a classic.


Up is up, up, and away my choice for the Best Movie in 2009!

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