The teaser trailer for 'Up' didn't exactly get me excited. A grumpy old guy and a boy scout in a balloon didn't really fire up my enthusiasm - hardened cynic that I am!
Also, maybe I was a bit jaded as we'd had several animated films lately that relied on pooping gags as their main source of laughs.
It just goes to show how wrong first impressions can be.
'Up' is a rare thing in animated films. It comes from Disney/Pixar so the animation should be second to none - and that box is ticked from the very first frame to the last. Where animations have fallen down in the past, as far as I'm concerned, is that they have failed to involve me through the fact that I formed no emotional attachment to the characters. The stories and action may well have been funny or exciting in places but the characters remained firmly on the artist's drawing pad or computer graphics tablet. Until now, that is !
The storytellers (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson) at Disney/Pixar take their time to let us get to know the character of Carl (the old guy, voiced by Ed Asner) by introducing him to us as a child while he watches a cinema newsreel of his hero, adventurer Charles Muntz - who features in the main story later. He meets the love of his life, Ellie as a young girl (Elie Docter - any nepotism here?) who also shares his love of adventure and far off places. We witness their happiness as the two grow up together and eventually get married. We share in their deeply sad moments and financial tribulations as life continues to stop them both going to 'Paradise Falls', Ellie's dream setting. As they both grow older, illness comes and takes Ellie away, leaving Carl alone and quietly devastated. This is only one of the many poignant, gentle, tender moments that caused a lump in my throat and a tear to be surreptitiously wiped away. By now, Carl seemed real to me as the storytellers had touched upon situations we can all empathise with. In short, I felt for him. Some films, in attempting to achieve this upswell of emotion only succeed in making you want to tell the moviemakers to get their mucky fingers out of your heartstrings. Not so with 'Up'. I felt there was a kindness there.
So Carl lives quietly on his own, getting through life until the house he'd shared with Ellie becomes surrounded by a construction site and one day an unfortunate incident puts him on the wrong side of the Law, with Shady Pines retirement home beckoning.
As the bus arrives to take him to God's waiting room, Carl asks for a moment to say goodbye to the old place and moments later the care staff watch in amazement as the house uproots and soars overhead as the cunning old codger has tied thousands of Helium filled balloons to it. So begins the adventure.
As Carl is sitting happily admiring the clouds go by, there's a knock at the door. Upon opening it he's more than a little surprised to find Russell (Jordan Nagai) the Wilderness Scout gripping like a limpet to his front porch, asking to be let in. After some reluctance, the egg shaped young lad enters Carl's life and starts the humanising process on someone who has locked away his feelings from the world.
The action really kicks off when the house comes down in the South American jungle where Carl and Russell are befriended by Dug the talking dog - or rather a dog fitted with a piece of technology in his collar that allows him to talk. No sooner have they recovered from this revelation when Russell meets a large, vividly coloured, non flying bird who he rapidly christens Kevin.
Dug turns out to be a member of a pack of dogs owned by Charles Muntz (remember?) voiced by Christopher Plummer, who has been living in the jungle with his large airship and for many years has been trying to capture one large, vividly coloured, non flying bird. Wonder where we can find one of those? Hmmmm.
Eventually Muntz turns out to be not such a nice guy and mayhem ensues as he goes after Kevin, hindered by Carl & Russell.
His pack of dogs can be quite scary at times, but the fear of the Alpha dog (a Doberman) is lessened by a fault in his collar talking device which makes him sound like a chipmunk. The dogs also have the hilarious habit of breaking off mid-sentence and exclaiming, “Squirrel!” as their attention darts simultaneously in one direction as if spotting something worth chasing.
I won't reveal the ending, but it doesn't take a whole headful of brains to work it out.
'Up' is ultimately a feel good movie and a very charming one into the bargain. It eschews crass, callous, unkind humour which puts it at odds with much of modern culture - but is a much better film for doing so.
The characters grow on you (even Russell) as the movie unspools, aided in no small way be the gentle score provided by Michael Giacchino. It's interesting to note that he was also responsible for the score for 'Star Trek'(2009) and this demonstrates that you should never pigeonhole people as they often have a vast range.
'Up' is good family entertainment, but you don't need a houseful of ankle biters to recognise the magic contained within this movie.
Share the adventure with Carl and his new family.