Friday, June 19, 2009
I was not expecting Up to be such a down-er (not to be too corny or anything). Last night, I was drawn to see Pixar's new film, Up, which is aimed at children as their primary audience for the film. I was shocked to see the movie with such solemn and serious tones imbedded throughout the movie! The previews did not portray the mature content that was persistent throughout the film.
What the previews showed of Up was an older man whose house is somehow lifted from the ground with hundreds of balloons. This older man finds a young boy scout on his porch (acting as an antagonist), and the two travel in this house with balloons to crazy places.
What was not introduced (and couldn't really be introduced in a thirty-second preview) was the purpose of this voyage of the old man. I'm about to spoil, so if you want to be completely surprised, don't read ahead. Mr. Fredricksen, the old man, is first depicted as a very young boy. He heard an adventurer speak at a local lecture hall, and from that day on, he wants to adventure. He meets a young girl named Ellie who also wants to be an adventurer. Through a series of actions (where the characters do not speak and piano overlays the shots), the movie progresses through their lives as they fall in love and get married. Then, the couple experiences Ellie not being able to produce children. Then they become older, but throughout it is shown how happy the two are together even though they remain living in the town that they vowed to live.
The couple's aim is to travel to a country in South America and live in Paradise Falls. They keep a jar to save up money to live there, but they continue to tap into the money as they need expenses to live (fixing popped tires, replacing the roof, etc). Eventually, they become senior citizens, and they are still in love. Then, and here comes the sad part, Mr. Fredricksen realizes that they never fulfilled their dream to go to South America. He buys tickets for them and plans to give them to her on a romantic picnic. As Ellie walks up the hill to the picnic, she collapses. The next shot shows her in the hospital, very weak but very loving. They gaze into each other's eyes. The next shot shows Mr. Fredricksen sitting alone on the alter of a church at her funeral. The piano music slows to a deafening stop, in which people begin to cry uncontrollably.
They showed the couple so happy and their dream so unfulfilled that it's ultimately extremely depressing. Okay, so this part is fine (even though very mature for young children) but it sets up Mr. Fredricksen's motivation to travel to South America and fulfill their destiny. However, these threads of his loneliness, isolation, and longing for his wife are continuously retouched throughout the movie, causing more and more tears.
Ellie had an adventure book, and on one page she wrote "Stuff I want to do" and she was supposed to write down everything they would do on their adventure (that never happened). But after Mr. Fredricksen arrives at South America without her, he opens up the book to find that she DID put pictures and memories after that part. Instead of having the adventure they had spoken of (traveling to South America), she had different adventures with her husband--growing old together. She put in images of them together and happy, which shows her happy life with him. It was HEART WRENCHING. Tears came again.
And as if that part wasn't mature and sad enough, they also drew upon some sad material with Russell, the boy scout who accompanies Mr. Fredricksen on his journey. He talks about his absent father who ran away with another woman. His father does not spend time with him anymore, and he misses his presence. He wishes that he could be at his boy scout meetings to award him badges as he is the only person who does not have a father to award them. There is a long awkward pause after this, in which some people again start to cry.
However, I do like the overall message with each story: Life is always an adventure, not always one that you planned, but even if that adventure goes sour or unfulfilled, more lie in the future of your life. Good can come from the bad. It is never too late to dream. It is never too late to fulfill the promises, hopes, and dreams that you set for yourself long ago, even if it seems difficult. It's a good message for children, but it was very racy and intense for them, in my opinion. I would have felt very shocked to see this with my children if I did not know the content beforehand.
Even though I might sound negative, I do think the movie was very smart and very good. There were many hilarious parts, as the comedy from the movie came from its abrupt nature. What I mean is this: the movie had many parts when something would happen so fast that it was hilarious because it would cut right to the next shot. There were many funny parts. There was enough comic relief to ward off the sad parts, but the movie seemed to operate like a heart monitor--high point, low point, high point, low point, and so on. It was an emotional rollercoaster, as far as I'm concerned.
I never saw where the movie was headed, with the introduction of "Kevin" the female bird, which was hilarious. Mr. Fredricksen eventually meets up with the explorer who made him want to adventure, except he is the bad guy. He wants to capture Kevin for his own pleasures, and Mr. Fredricksen and Russell decide to save this bird. Along with the help of a talking dog named Doug (dogs talk with collars created by the prestigious explorer). The talking dogs were hilarious; they really captured what dogs might sound like if they could talk. "Squirrel!" Hilarious.
Up had a colorful message like the colors strewn across its balloons, but it was also deeply tangled with some serious material. I think it can be read on many different levels, which makes a movie very good, in my opinion. I like its overall message, and I think it's one of Pixar's best so far. I hope I don't sound harsh because I did like it; I was just overly shocked and taken aback by the content, especially since it's a children's film. But, it was a pleasant surprise and I'm glad I got to see it.
So what do you think of Up?