‘Up’ is not for children…

21 06 2009

So we took Lily and David to see “Up” today and my first reaction was that this is a beautiful, funny and wonderfully moving film about love, loss, our connections to other human beings and the true definition of “adventure.” My second reaction was that this may be the most “adult” film Pixar has ever made. To judge by the (admittedly small) sample size of my six and four-year old, there’s not really enough slapstick and humor to keep the kiddies entertained. True the bird is a typical wacky cartoon animal and they certainly appreciated the talking dogs, but most of this movie is emotionally centered around retired balloon salesman Carl Fredrickson and the love of his life, Ellie — a spunky would-be adventurer that Carl meets as a kid who eventually becomes his wife.

Carl’s pain at the loss of Ellie (beautifully portrayed in an opening montage of their life togather) is the real driving force behind all the action of the film and Ellie’s larger-than-life presence looms throughout the picture, her memory and their house are the (literal) anchor that’s keeping him from flying off to discover new adventures. The house itself becomes an almost hit-you-on-the-head symbol as Carl spends much of the film lashed to it. It’s a faded memory that he’s unable to let go of and move on. It’s a melancholy theme that hangs over the whole picture and while it’s beautifully handled in the script, it necessarily brings the entire picture down. For all the visual beauty of the house dangling from brightly colored balloons and the South American jungle and Kevin, the wrongly-named bird the main characters meet, the emotional pall that hangs over the picture seems to weigh it down in ways that not even the very funny script and physical comedy can alleviate.

My daughter didn’t like the picture at all. She said it was because of “the pack of evil dogs.” I wonder if in her own way she’s trying to explain the emotional miasma that permeated the movie. It’s the kind of thing that adults will love but I wonder how many kids will react like mine.

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