Starring: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, John Ratzenberger, Christopher Plummer
Directed by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Written by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
It’s been 10 years since Disney Pixar’s Up release caused many of us to cry in the first 10 minutes with its memorable beginning sequence that is still talked about today. This film was one I went into not sure what to expect. With the lead character Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Edward Asner) resembling my late grandfather, I went into this film open to what Pixar had to offer and came out a blubbering mess. In true Disney Pixar style, you have to be ready for anything, and what an emotional roller coaster Up sure is.
The film begins at a movie theater where we find a young Carl Fredrickson admiring his hero, an explorer by the name of Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer) who recently traveled to South America. On Carl’s way home, he encounters a fellow explorer wanna-be and Muntz fan named Ellie. She initiates him in an explorer club of which she is the only other member. Both develop a quick friendship, and in a dialog-free sequence, we follow the two as they get married and grow old together.
We watch them go through the chapters of life. From getting established, Carl works as a balloon salesman, to trying to have children. They discover they can’t and make plans to go to South America and find Paradise Falls instead. Life is unexpected, and they keep having to dig into their savings for one reason or another. Eventually, they grow too old. When Carl decides to try to surprise Ellie with tickets to Peru, she passes away. It’s such a heart-wrenching 10 minutes! As I rewatched this scene, I immediately started sobbing uncontrollably as if it was my first screening. Pixar really knows how to play with your emotions.
A now retired Carl, a lonely senior citizen, who has lost his soulmate is in the midst of a transition, wants nothing to do his neighborhood. He finds that his iconic home becomes a concrete jungle. It isn’t until he accidentally injures a builder and is denounced as a menace to society that he decides to make a last-ditch effort to escape to Paradise Falls to honor Ellie.
However, it’s when he crosses paths with a very keen Wilderness Explorer named Russell, trying to earn his badges, that his world is shook up. During an escape plan involving his home being carried away by thousands upon thousands of balloons and sails made of a shower and window curtains, he realizes he’s brought the child accidentally with him as a stowaway. Throughout the movie, we watch them develop an odd friendship. This optimistic boy teaches this grumpy man to love life and adventure again. They make some new friends along the way, including a giant bird Russell names Kevin and a talking golden retriever named Dug, who is a personal favorite of mine.
Up is a film about getting old, about regret, and about realizing that life is messy and out of control, as much as you might try to make it otherwise. But it’s also a film about compassion, letting go, and finding growth when you didn’t think you could grow anymore and making sure that every day counts. His friendship with Russell grows into a mentorship with touching, bonding moments between this elderly man and child … something Carl’s never had much experience within his later years. This film tackles some heavier topics throughout. In pure Pixar style, it doesn’t talk down to children or their parents. Much like that rich, tragic opening, the rest of Up is challenging, both emotionally and narratively. It trusts viewers to keep up, even 10 years later.