May 24, 2013
Written by Matthew Schumann
Thursday, 18 June 2009 10:09
For several years, Matthew Schumann contributed film reviews as part of the “Take Two” father-and-sons movie review team. This week, his father Mark, the “Reel Dad,” steps aside to bring Matthew back to the column for a guest appearance.
It’s hard to imagine Pixar doing much wrong these days. The animation giant is the industry leader in quality computer-generation films. With the release of Up, Pixar has solidified this role, as well as earned, in my mind, a place as one of the best and most consistent production companies in Hollywood.
Up sticks to a formula that has worked time and time again. The story, on the surface, is simple. An old man decides to realize the dream of his dearly departed wife as he enters the winter of his years. Anyone can imagine this drama playing out on a live-action big screen. Of course, though, Pixar infuses a great deal of wonder and imagination into their tale. The dream? Visit exotic Paradise Falls in South America. The imaginative twist? The protagonist does so in his house, elevated into the sky by tons of helium balloons. Throw in a lost Boy Scout and talking dogs, and the audience is able to witness the true creative genius of the film’s animators.
Beyond the awe-inspiring cinematography, the film’s storytelling is extremely tasteful and cogent. There are no wasted scenes, and beyond some jokes intended for younger audiences, no wasted dialogue. In fact, I was most surprised how adult the film is. Up, like WALL-E, navigates mature ideas with youthful enthusiasm and optimism. In this way, Pixar again demonstrates a masterful ability to created films that appeal both to children and adults.
Up stresses the importance of family and friendship. After the loss of his wife, Carl Frederickson (voiced by Ed Asner), the film’s protagonist, becomes isolated, turning into a bit of a curmudgeon. The sudden departure of his floating house forces him to interact with Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer” (read: Boy Scout), who is trapped on Frederickson’s porch. At first, Frederickson remains focused on his goal to reach Paradise Falls, ignoring Russell and the other misfits they encounter on their way. Then he meets long-lost explorer Charles Muntz, the old man’s childhood idol. Muntz provides a glimpse into the man Frederickson could be: a solitary explorer, completely devoted to adventure and exploration. But Muntz, whose only companions are a pack of talking dogs who obey his every command, is in reality a greedy, murderous sociopath. So, in the film’s climax, Frederickson makes the obvious choice to protect Russell, their companions, and in the end befriends them all.
Up teach us a timeless lesson: the most important things in life are the people we care most about. See it in a theater soon, and make Up an opportunity for your family to spend quality time together.
4-1/2 Popcorn Buckets
Looking for something to rent? Here is a suggestion inspired by Up. WALL-E, the brilliant Pixar entry from 2008, was awarded the Oscar for Best Animated Film. It should have been a contender for the Best Picture award but the Academy, in its wisdom, is determined to isolate any honors for animated features. No matter, this film offers a fabulous mix of entertainment and message, including a return visit to the musical numbers of Hello, Dolly!
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