Saturday, January 30, 2010

Up: Pixar does it again, and not just for kids

The Pixar film Up is now out on DVD, and it's a thrill ride, with a lot of great story for young and old. In addition to the quality of the film (more on this below), the DVD includes a number of extra features - including Pixar shorts "Partly Cloudy" and "Dug's Special Mission" - which I haven't had time to fully watch yet, but I saw the movie in the theater back when it came out and have seen it once again since it came out on DVD. Really a great film! I wrote the following review of the feature film for Amazon (rate the review here):
From the beginning, Pixar has made films based on premises that I thought were going to be bad. A film about toys? A film about bugs? A film about fish? A film about talking cars? A film about a cooking rat? Yet, time and again, they've not only made the premise work, they've made it exceptional. (Actually, I didn't personally like the cooking rat film, but my point still stands.)

So by the time that I saw a preview for Up, I knew not to dismiss their weird premises. A film about a house flying because it's tied to a bunch of balloons? Eh, they've done weirder.
What I was not expecting, but should have, was that this flying house would provide the backdrop for a deeply poignant film about overcoming grief and embracing life. While all the films carry important thematic elements, I'd say that this is the first of the Pixar movies that adults can actually appreciate more for the adult themes than kids will appreciate for the fun parts. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of fun stuff for kids ... but the story is something you have to be a little bit older to really grasp.

From the first few minutes, where we see a montage of Carl Fredrickson's (played by Ed Asner) life, adults especially connect to him in a very personal way, because it's clear that he's led a rich, full life ... but also that many unanticipated, tragic things have happened to him. He is now an old man, a widower, and about to lose everything. So, in reaction, he decides to go on a final adventure ... and take his house along with him.

The adventure, though, is really the old adventure he (and his wife) had always longed for but never achieved. It was not intended as an affirmation of his life, but a conclusion to it. It was not about boldly stepping into the future, but about connecting to his past. And, through the course of the film, Carl realizes that life isn't over until it's over.

It's a powerful message, woven into a film which kids will appreciate for the cute chubby Wilderness Explorer Russell, the talking dogs (some of whom fly airplanes), and the big crazy colorful bird. But someday, when they're much older, they'll realize that they had very different adventures from the ones they once dreamed of ... but that doesn't make them any less valuable.  If anything, it makes them more valuable. And maybe they'll think of Up, and realize there was a lot they missed in that film.

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