20th September, 2009
In a word: Uplifting
HITCHING A RIDE: Carl Fredricksen, Russell and 'Dug' the dog hang on tight to Mr Fredricksen's floating house.
"The Disney-Pixar film is a deftly scripted story, beautifully illustrated and one which delivers some important messages about the adventure that life can be, whether you’re old or young, no matter what you’re faced with."
It’s an age-old storyline device - pair up a grumpy old person with a child and watch as the child softens away the hard edges and a friendship blossoms through which the elderly person finds a new lease on life. It’s that relationship - in this case between an eight-year-old boy, Russell, and the elderly Carl Fredricksen - which is at the heart of Up and despite the fact we’ve all seen it before, it works a treat to draw us in to what is a clever, funny and heart-warming tale.
Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) is an eight-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer on the make - he’s looking to help someone in order to achieve his final badge, assisting the elderly. Carl Fredricksen, a curmudgeonly old man who’s in a fight against building developers to keep his house, is that someone. Their relationship gets off to a somewhat rocky start when Mr Fredricksen slams the door in Russell’s face but this is not a boy to be deterred and he’s soon off looking for an imaginary bird known as a ‘snipe’ on Mr Fredricksen’s request.
What Russell doesn’t know - and we do, thanks to the film’s extended intro - is the background to Mr Fredricksen’s story. A shy boy, his life was changed forever when he met Ellie, an adventurous girl who later became his wife. The two of them were both ardent fans of the adventurer Charles Muntz - who disappeared while exploring the jungles of South America - and one day promised to head there themselves and build themselves a house at a place called Paradise Falls.
But life intervened and the Fredricksens never made it and so it’s only now - after a run-in with the developers in which one was injured and it was decided Mr Fredricksen must leave his house for a nursing home - that the old man takes matters into his own hands.
A former balloon seller at the zoo, he knows a thing or two about helium and so to the amazement of onlookers, on the morning the nursing home staff arrive to take him to his new abode, he releases thousands of balloons which, tied to his house, haul the entire building into the air. With some homemade sails, he aims to fly the house to Paradise Falls and there live out his remaining years in peace.
There’s a small hiccup in the plan, however, and his name is Russell. He was on the porch when the house lifted off and so now joins Mr Fredricksen in his quest - something he’s initially quite happy to do.
The odd couple find themselves coming back to ground in South America within sight of the Paradise Falls and, with the floating house tied to him, Mr Fredricksen decides to complete his journey by walking. They’re soon soon joined by a talking dog and a giant bird which Russell names Gavan (it turns out to be a girl and isn’t the 'snipe' Russell thinks it is). Hilarity - and some unexpected encounters - ensue as the odd grouping make their way to Paradise Falls.
Directed by Pete Doctor (of Toy Story fame), the Disney-Pixar film - Pixar's first animation in 3D - is a deftly scripted story, beautifully illustrated and one which delivers some important messages about the adventure that life can be, whether you’re old or young, no matter what you’re faced with.
With plenty of action and laughs to keep it humming, this is a fun film and among Pixar’s best to date (which is saying something when we recall they're the mob behind other heart-warming hits like Finding Nemo and Ratatouille). There's plenty of appeal here for both kids and parents.
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