A few days ago, I saw a preview of 'Up' the new Pixar movie. It brought back some vivid memories from my younger days, and much of what has transpired since that time. During my senior year in high school, I saw a short French film called 'The Red Balloon.' If you've never seen it, this surreal movie is about a handsome young boy followed around Paris, France by a single red balloon. It trails him here and there until the boy is finally carried away by the red balloon -- tied in with all its "cousins" -- straight up into the stratosphere. That's where the story stops.
'The Red Balloon' won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and several other awards for Albert Lamorisse in 1957. Touching and sweet, you are able to believe what you wish about the main character in that film. What's clear is that UP is always better than DOWN and it's that way for a reason. After all, there are Heaven and Hell -- the fresh sweet breezy blue sky with white clouds versus the dark and gloomy ground. We dare not even mention the underground.
The long awaited Pixar/Disney film 'Up' seems to have evolved from a similar ultra-simple tale. I believe Monsieur Lamorisse would have loved it! 'Up' is a very pleasing potpourri of charming and devilish characters, lavish images, transcendent music, and magnificent backgrounds. The story plays out very well in two unique realms. For me, it was a sentimental comedy. One minute I was sniffling as the elderly main characters find each other, live and love as they play out their structured life, dreaming of adventure somewhere along the road. But life itself interferes as it will, and the couple never gets to fulfill their joint dream.
Especially touching -- during this week of my 70th birthday on 5/31 -- is the square-faced, elderly character of Carl Fredrickson, a balloon salesman, voiced by the gruff-and-funny character actor Ed Asner. Clearly, Asner enjoys the whole thing. The other voices are also recognizable are Christopher Plummer (no longer the handsome Captain with seven children, but still going after all these years) and John Ratzenberger (the postal employee from 'Cheers').
After a life-altering situation occurs, and the movie switches gears. Then it becomes a comical "buddy roadtrip" with some intensity in the later action. Kudos to the decision to use a decidedly rotund animated Asian character for the cuddly young Wilderness Scout who accidentally accompanies Carl in his late-life adventures. Jordan Nagai is extremely talented with a voice that clearly captures all of the emotion of this key character.
'Up' has quite a few jokes. Between my eight-year-old grandson laughing on my left side, and a well-known and admired writer/film reviewer chortling on the other side, I probably missed a few. This movie will be a must-see for the second time.
It's only mid-year, and 'Up' takes its rightful place at the top of the picture-perfect pantheon of Pixar movies. It will be hard to imagine another movie outpacing this one for best animation awards in 2009.
So, my advice is to take the ride. See it in Disney 3-D if you can, which adds to the experience. Know that you can help guide the balloons of your life where you wish to go. If you are lucky, you might be able to fulfill most of your dreams right to the very end. There really is no other choice. Life will sweep you up anyway, and you must go with it, even if you have to deal with downdrafts along the way.
I'm pleased to give 'Up' an 'A' on Ellen's Entertainment Report Card.
Official website and trailer: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/up/
Rating: PG for some peril and action. (Parents: Be aware that the movie contains allusions to a woman's infertility and a brief death sequence. This is handled in a very acceptable way for most people.)
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Pete Docter
Co-Director: Bob Peterson
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Thursday, May 28, 2009