Monday, April 14, 2014

Up (2009)

Readers, please cut me some slack.

Reel Popcorn Junkie is dedicated to reviewing films released at least 10 years ago.

It's 2014. Up came out in 2009. But this movie fan missed this fine animated film's theatrical release. I quickly grabbed it at my public library last week.

Good choice. Glad I didn't wait another five years.

Up, winner of two Oscars including best animated feature, is a lot of fun. But the scene that stands out for me the most comes early on when we're introduced to a young Carl (Jerome Leary) and Ellie (Elie Docter).

Carl is riveted watching newsreels about adventurer Charles Muntz (Christoper Plummer). This guy goes to lands never seen. "Adventure is out there," he proclaims. Carl meets up with Ellie (Elie Docter) on his way back from the show. She's keen to live the life of an adventurer too and has started by calling an abandoned home her playground.

The two kids hit it off. They get married. And then, the scene.

With no dialogue, just some melancholy piano, viewers see a series of snapshots of Carl and Ellie's life together. We learn Ellie dreamed of having a big family and is devastated when she's told she can't have children. The couple keeps trying to save for an adventure to Paradise Falls, Muntz's last known destination. But more mundane costs keep coming up that drain their savings. It's Ellie whose health fails first and Carl (voiced by Ed Asner as an adult) is ripped apart by her death. So, in a span of a few minutes co-directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson have crafted a beautiful film within a film. Great stuff. There's another couple of scenes later on that are handled the same way. No explosions. No special effects. Simple vignettes. Beautiful.

Carl's getting old. His home is surrounded by skyscrapers. A clash with a construction worker takes a nasty turn. A home for seniors beckons. Carl doesn't want to go. He chooses to escape the big city and finally make good on his lifelong dream. He's headed to Paradise Falls. Carl didn't count on Russell (Jordan Nagai) tagging along. A member of some Boy Scouts-like group, Russell is eager to land his wilderness experience badge. He had offered earlier to help Carl and ended up floating away with Carl when the senior sets sail by unleashing a huge volley of balloons through his fireplace. Pretty neat, eh?

The pair make it to Paradise Falls, but life there isn't quite a dreamland. Muntz, years later, is still around, but hasn't dedicated his time to the betterment of humanity. This is one angry old man. "I have unfinished work here," he declares. "They called me a fraud." When Carl and Russell manage to attract a rare bird Muntz has tried to capture for years, watch out. Carl just wants to be left alone in paradise. Russell is eager to help the bird. Muntz wants the bird stuffed.

Up works the conservation angle with the bird who has some babies she has to raise. Old dreams are realized with Carl's trip. Russell finds the father figure he's looking for while earning his stripes.

No hokey songs. Very little bathroom humour. Great imagination with a house being carried away by many small balloons.

Get up about seeing Up.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Co-director Pete Docter directed Monsters Inc.

Bob Peterson, making his directing debut, also supplies the voices for Dug and Alpha. He was the voice of Roz in the Monsters films.

That's Canadian actor David Kaye doing the voiceover work on the movie newsreel. This guy has done loads of voicework since starting his career in the mid-1980s.

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