Posted: 11/23/2009




by Laura Tucker

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Sometimes I almost think that it does a film a disservice to film it in animation. Some people automatically look at an animated film and think it’s just for kids, and it deprives the movie of some of the audience that it deserves. Up is animated and cute and everything a Disney/Pixar film should be, but it’s a whole lot more.

Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner, Jeremy Leary) only cared about one thing growing up, and that was aviation. He was fascinated with flying and it filtered through his obsession with balloons. He chanced upon a young girl who had a complimentary obsession. Ellie (voiced by Elie Docter) was obsessed with adventure. She kept a book of things she wanted to do someday, including visiting Paradise Falls. She and Carl both had the same hero, explorer Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer).

After a youth spent as companions, Carl and Ellie get married and begin their perfect life, transforming their old hideout into their perfect home, and Carl finds work selling balloons. Without any words being spoken, we see life happen, or not happen, before our eyes. The two set up their house, prepare a nursery, then Ellie gets wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair, looking dejected, with only Carl by her side. Those are some pretty heavy emotions for a Disney movie. We thought Bambi was sad.

Carl and Ellie grow into old age together, with never anyone else in their lives to share it with. Ellie passes away with Carl by her side, and he’s left alone, for the first time since he met the quirky little girl. Again, it’s heavy emotions for a Disney movie. No one else understands why he’s so protective about his home, his and Ellie’s home, and arrangements are made to send him to some type of assisted living center.

Not wanting to go willingly, Carl uses his lifetime obsession with aviation and balloons, and sets sail in his home, aiming for Paradise Falls, to finally make his and Ellie’s dream come true. The one thing he didn’t plan on was that the neighborhood Explorer Scout, Russell (Jordan Nagai), would be standing on his porch at the time of takeoff. Russell doesn’t mind being a stowaway, as he sees it as his opportunity to earn his last badge, the one for helping the elderly.

Carl and Russell do land the house in South America, with Paradise Falls within their sights. They decide to walk the house, like a large balloon, over to the falls, and figure it will only take a few days. This is where their adventure starts, as they meet a giant bird who Russell names Kevin, and a pack of talking dogs.

What’s lost on Carl, but not the audience, is that this was the adventure he and Ellie always dreamed of, yet he becomes so fixated on getting to the Falls that he misses recognizing all the adventure he’s having with Russell, Kevin, and the dogs. Carl ends up having more adventure than he ever dreamed of, and in a way, gets the son/grandson out of it that he missed having with Ellie.

Basically Up is about life, growing up, starting a new life together, dealing with sadness, death, adventure, etc. But because it’s animated, it might not end up reaching the adult audience that it deserves just as much as the youth audience. Then again, it works conversely as well. Youthful audiences are getting exposed to this wonderful film about life, when all they’re looking for is a cute Disney film.

Up was released on DVD and Blu-Ray November 10th.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack, and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, and is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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