It was a cool Saturday evening as people of all ages and all walks of life wandered together, almost telepathically, to see Pixar Studios' latest offering, Up. What is so great about this movie that drew a full crowd — something I haven't seen in quite a while?
For one, the film is a Pixar movie, which is always an event in itself. Pixar has always been known to create high quality animated pictures, from Toy Story to their most recent entry WALL-E, which was released last year. Up is the tenth full-length film from the studio since – a run that began with Toy Story in 1995 – and all the films in between have been critical and commercial successes.
Up doesn't feature any robots or talking cars, no Buzz Lightyear or a rat who wants to be a cook, but it does have a grumpy old man who has just lost his wife and an over-eager young Asian-American wilderness explorer. That brings us to the movie's main strengths: the simple yet resounding plot that connects emotionally with adults and the great animation work to which children can easily respond.
Up tells the tale of aging Carl Fredericksen (voiced by Ed Asner, known for his role in the '70s TV sitcom, Mary Tyler Moore), a widower who is relegated to living out his years in his simple home. Times are changing around him, but his memories are firmly fixed on the life he led with his beloved wife Ellie, and their one unfulfilled dream: to travel to Paradise Falls in South America. His self-imposed hibernation is disturbed in the form of young Russell (voiced by newcomer Jordan Nagai), a "wilderness explorer" (think Boy Scout) who needs a badge for "assisting the elderly" to complete his training. Carl and Russell then embark on the adventure of their lives — for Carl, to fulfill his promise to his beloved, and for Russell, to fulfill his training. Carl is the father that Russell rarely sees, while Russell is the son that Carl never had.
Without giving away too many plot details, the movie sends out a basic message: it's never too late to follow your dreams. While this may seem corny, Pixar's animation is so evocative that it is able to deliver this timeless message without live action.
One of the great moments in the movie is a silent montage that tells the love story of Carl and Ellie, which will bring tears to your eyes. In these complicated times filled with complicated films, Up is a straightforward, uncomplicated, and heartfelt movie that will refresh and uplift, as evidenced by the ovation it received from the audience I watched it with as the credits rolled. See this with the love of your life, your family, or even by yourself.