Talking toys, talking bugs, talking fish, talking cars, a family of superheroes, a secret society of monsters, a rat that cooks, a love-sick robot, and now . . . a 78-year-old man?
Pixar is the only studio in the world that has consistently delivered quality hit films in perfect succession. Always anchored by personable protagonists that kids fall in love with, Pixar has taken a risk this year by centering its latest effort, Up, on an aging old man who has just lost the love of his life.
Carl Fredericksen grew up dreaming of taking adventures around the world. As a boy, he met his soul mate in a quirky, charming, girl named Ellie. They grew up, married and grew old together; both drifted far from their childhood ambitions. When Ellie passes away though, Carl yearns to honor his late wife’s former ambition.
One day, Carl is greeted by a young boy named Russell with the same sense of wonder that he and his wife once shared. On this day, however, Carl is already planning something big: to fly his house, carried by thousands of balloons, around the world. With Russell trapped on board, Carl begrudgingly brings him along.
With Up, Pixar has taken animated storytelling to an entirely new plane of heartfelt wonder. The opening montage depicting Carl’s and Ellie’s lives together is one of the most emotional and moving sequences that any film has given in years. For the first time, and somewhat unexpectedly from a “kids’ movie,” I was moved to a tear in my eye thanks to Pixar delivering more characterization and sympathy in 10 minutes than most films do in two hours.
From there, the film does eventually take its turn into the adventurous medium that kids will probably be itching for by the time it arrives.
Through undiscovered wilderness, talking dogs and an unexpected villain, Carl and Russell develop an entertaining, humorous and heartfelt relationship. It would be an outstanding injustice if Pixar was not recognized during awards season for Up’s brilliantly original screenplay. Through these characters, Pixar has once again successfully blended fun, the magic of animation and the themes of love, dreams, life and death that will resonate long after leaving the theater.