A beautiful, heart warming story that really does deliver at every level. Rarely does a film have our whole family wiping away the tears, but Up managed it in the first ten minutes. The story follows the developing friendship between an old man called Carl, and Russell a young adventure scout, set against the background of surreal and yet captivating action. Among the themes explored are: bereavement, old age, family breakdown, childlessness, disillusionment, unfulfilled dreams and environmental exploitation. It is so refreshing to watch a film devoid of cynicism and free from contrived sentimentality.
Occasionally animators manage to capture in a few short scenes the joys and sorrows of life with a sensitivity missing from most other films. One family favourite is the story of the cowgirl Jesse in Toy Story 2 set to the song When Somebody Loved Me; it is heartbreaking. The opening montage in Up, unfolding the relationship between Carl and Ellie Fredricksen is perfectly judged, full of humour and heartache and almost a complete film on its own, though it lasts about five minutes.
The main story is an adventure in which Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house to float away from impending eviction and life in an old people’s home. Russell accidentally ends up coming along for the ride and the two find themselves landing near Paradise Falls, somewhere in South America, the place Carl and Ellie had always dreamed of visiting. There they meet Muntz the long lost adventurer that Carl had looked up to as a child, only to discover he is not quite the hero he appeared in the old cinema newsreels. There’s plenty of straight forward action and laughter to balance the more subtle emotional moments in the film.
It’s refreshing to see a film in which the central characters are so ordinary; a curmudgeonly old man and a rather overweight and seemingly unexceptional child who nevertheless proves to be courageous, loyal and compassionate - so different from the classic Disney heroes and princesses.
The only concern I’ve read raised about Up centres on the use of 3D. I certainly think you could watch the film in 2D and the film wouldn’t be diminished in any way, but it was great fun for us as a family putting on the 3D glasses and it made the cinema trip feel like more of an event. Having said that the trailer for A Christmas Carol really showed off the 3D technology to great effect and meant that the 3D impact of the feature film was somewhat flattened.
Up is a superb example of the high quality animated films being produced today. It’s a great family film with plenty to hold everyone’s attention and we floated out of the cinema uplifted by the whole experience.