Friday, July 3, 2009

In Praise of UP

After reading about UP in Orson Scott Card’s review, I was even more excited to see it than I had been by its initial premise (I’m pretty much a Pixar fanatic, and I’ve seen just about all of the Pixar movies, so it was pretty much inevitable I’d see this one, too. Add the premise of a positive (albeit differently named) not to the Boy Scouts, and I was already interested. But to hear Card describe UP as “an American animated film that approaches Miyazaki’s best work”… wow, now *this* really had me interested.

My family saw UP last night, and yes, I agree with Card on two points. First, it definitely approaches the ambition of Miyazaki and I would classify it up there with many of Miyazaki’s best, but even m ore than that, it just plain works as a story that hits you on many levels. It’s fun, and it’s sweet, but it’s also poignant and touching. It never gets boring, and the visuals are just plain stunning, even in the quiet parts.

My hats off to Pixar for approaching an idea with courage and grace for an animated film; it showed the life of two people in love, and the realities that go with that love, the ups the down, the happiness, the sadness, and to also echo Card’s review (hey, he said it first, so I have no right to present it as though it were my idea)… I’m proud of them for actually showing what happens when a loved one reaches a decline in their life and actually dies. This happens early in the film, so don’t feel like I’m ruining the story by mentioning it. I loved how they set up the story for Carl and Ellie; from being little kids to marrying, to working together, to fixing up their home, all the way to the end of Ellie’s life and that adventure they just never got to take.

From there, we get to the story of the flying house, a lost land, a boy who wants to be a good scout (and as a Scoutmaster, I have had these boys in my Packs, Troops and Crews over the last 16 years, so this part of the story especially gave me a big smile), action, adventure, talking dogs, a really big bird, a dirigible and its captain, and all the things that make a Pixar movie, well, a Pixar movie :).

What I also enjoyed about this movie is the fact that its message was wonderful… it reminds us that many times, the greatest adventure that we will ever have will take place within the walls of our own home, and that’s the adventure of having a family you deeply care for and want to be with… there is a very sweet scene later in the movie where Ellie’s Adventure Book shows a page that says “Stuff I Plan To Do”, meaning the adventures she plans to have. We see this book merely with blank pages, and through the movie, it’s implied that that is all that is there. However, later in the film, as Carl looks at the pages, he sees that they are full… full of picture of his and Ellie’s life together. Pictures of a couple smiling, doing things around their beloved house, pictures of a day on a blanket in a field, and all the way up to their last picture together… the final message written saying “thank you for a wonderful adventure, Carl… now go make a new one! Love, Ellie”.

That just floored me, and it actually brought tears to my eyes. How often have each of us hoped for some unattainable excitement, some grand way of living, and ignored the greatest adventure that exists right in the walls of our own homes, with the very people we ought to really call our greatest adventure? If nothing else, I hope that I can keep that message as a reminder that my greatest adventure is in keeping the fire of a love alive with my beautiful wife and the never-ending adventure of raising three great kids (and I have a really cool dog, too, though she doesn’t talk :) ).

If you are one of the handfuls of people that have not seen this movie, by all means, go see it. Even if you want to wait until it comes out on DVD, you need to see this one. It’s a keeper!

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