Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Seventy eight year old Carl and his young friend discover a prized destination and more importantly a surprising friendship with each other.
Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (co-director)
Writers: Pete Docter (story by), Bob Peterson (story by)
Stars: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, John Ratzenberger
I won’t retread the same argument that everyone uses to persuade one to see this film; “The opening scene is, like, so breathtaking.”; I’m sure you’re already aware of that (and if you aren’t, we’ve written an entire article on this piece of cinematic magic: Up: Top Ten Opening Scenes of All Time). I’m instead writing to shed some light on Docter’s profound portrayal of young and old, hope and loss.
The movie features Carl (Ed Asner), an old man who, after losing his wife, Ellie and being shut off from the rest of the world, takes the first step to return to his life (that was once filled with boundless adventure). Actually, it is more than a first step in that it is literally speaking, transporting his house to the Falls by balloon! A scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai) accompanies him - much to Carl’s initial dismay - on the journey of a lifetime, as they become entangled with endangered species, a legendary explorer (Christopher Plummer) and other shenanigans (most involving one of the best animal sidekicks in the Pixar filmography, Dug the talking dog).
Up isn’t your typical animated feature. Helmed by Pixar legend, Pete Docter (Director of Monster’s Inc., writer of Toy Story and co-writer of Wall-E), the film subverts and delivers. Firstly, the characters themselves are so offbeat in nature; they do not reference many of the archetypes that were then considered to be the “secret sauce” for a good film. Docter bands together an old man devoid of any of his former zeal and a seemingly incompetent scout who, quite admittedly, isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Up manages to create a perfect alchemy of humour, wit and adventure within a story that will stick with you for a long, long time. If one were to ask to paint a picture of what it is like to seek adventure; to find youth; to journey with purpose, I would certainly point to this film.
Carl is the perfect vignette of society today; so devoid of meaningful stretch, yet longing for happiness. Russell is the incessant nagging for change that plagues all; but only affects those few up for the challenge. Up is in and of itself a call to adventure, wrapped in a delightful story with an abundance of universal morals – yet Docter ensures that they are not force-fed to the audience. The movie is gentle, reflective, poignant, but above all, elegant.
One cannot talk about Up without mentioning the masterstroke that is Giacchino’s score. Not often is it that a piece of music can be so melancholy, yet evoke so much hope and bliss. It helps profile key dichotomies with incredible finesse.
Up has everything: realistic, flawed characters who you can relate to, superb direction and a tight script that encapsulates the magic of the two polar stages of life itself, as well as a masterfully crafted score and some truly magnificent visuals.
Oh, and did I mention the opening scene? It’s good -- really good.