Animation film voiced by Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai and Christopher Plummer. Directed by Peter Docter and Bob Robertson. 101 mins.
Rated PG (some scary scenes).
A cinema delight. The American lady next to me broke into laughter many times and declared at the end that it was 'adorable'. A great choice to open the 2009 Cannes Festival in a time of recession. Money does not make the world go round!
Why a delight? An endearing plot that leads to many zany developments. Sympathetic characters: a grandfather-figure and a boy who needs a male role model. A hiss-the-villain. Bright Pixar animation and excellent voices for the characters. Some birds and animals that can take their place amongst the best of animated creatures. A thoughtful and funny screenplay with plenty of verbal and sound jokes as well as its deeper human feelings. There is 3D but, as Pete Docter noted, it is meant to be a window on to the events, not a 'lion in your lap', objects 'comin' at ya' exploitation of the technique. This is beginning to sound like a rave review – and, well, why not?
A warning. While there are some smiles in the first 20 minutes with an introduction of a 40s-style Movietown News and an introduction to two gawky kids, silent bespectacled Carl and chattering, gap-teeth, spiky hair Ellie who want to live lives of adventure when they grow up, one begins to think that this won't be a funny Pixar film at all and, we might wonder, how will the kiddies react? There follows a most moving collage of episodes in Carl's and Ellie's marriage and how they were not able to live their childhood dreams (which is reprised beautifully towards the end as Carl looks at the album of photos of their lives, the adventure of their marriage). And now that Carl is old, is it the nursing home ('Shady Oaks') for him and will the developers be able to take possession of his old house which is in the centre of a building site?
At this point, the film literally takes off, or at least Carl's house does, in the vein of The Wizard of Oz, with the myriad balloons he had sold to children over the years wafting him away. But, he is not alone. Russell, aged eight from down the street, needs another badge to become a senior in his cub-like organisation. He needs to help someone elderly. Carl has sent him on a wild goose (rather snipe) chase to get rid of him. But, Russell is hanging on to the verandah wall for dear life. He joins and shares Carl's adventure, to go to South America where Carl and Ellie wanted to go but never did.
The laugh quotient now begins to intensify. Carl has become a curmudgeon with the voice of Ed Asner. Russell is an earnest tubby little boy, voiced by Jordan Nagai. Together, they become an engaging odd couple in their flying, getting through a storm, landing in South America and dragging the house through the jungle and over rocks to get to the water fall, the hoped-for destination of the house.
And the laughs increase as we find a huge, colourful bird which Russell befriends and calls Kevin. This doesn't matter when he discovers, Kevin has chicks. Kevin is in the tradition of the Road Runner (and later could get a cartoon series of his/her own). Then there are the dogs, the funniest crowd of dogs for a long time, all able to speak, all doing the bid of the old explorer we saw in the Movietown News who now lives in his dirigible – and has been stalking Kevin for years, the villain (Christopher Plummer).
If this has not tempted you to see Up, then just take it on faith. It is a fine blend of the sweet and the funny and shows a great deal about friendship, family, helping others, and that material things, finally, are far less important than relationships. Of course, we know that, but here is a delightful reinforcement of those views.
Out Sept 3 in VIC/QLD
(Aug 20 in TAS, Sept 10 SA/WA and Sept 17 in NSW)
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.