Up was released in 2009 to universal critical acclaim. It is a touchingly beautiful film which will make you cry within the first eleven minutes, and before any words are spoken.
The film opens with a montage set to music. We see a young boy named Carl who likes to play at being an explorer. He particularly idolises Charles Muntz, who has been accused of fabricating the skeleton of a giant bird he says was found at Paradise Falls.
Carl becomes friends with Ellie, and we watch as the pair grow up and gradually this friendship turns into love. They marry, and set about restoring the derelict house they played in as youngsters. The next scene shows Carl and Ellie excitedly painting a nursery ready for a new addition. The music changes and your heart is ripped out and trampled on when we very obviously learn that Ellie has lost the baby and has been diagnosed as infertile.
The montage continues, showing them saving up their money to visit Paradise Falls, but as they age so Ellie gets sick and eventually passes away, leaving Carl as a widow which is where our film begins.
Carl is now a rather cantankerous elderly gentleman, still living in his marital home but all around him new homes are being built. When he accidentally injures a construction worker a court orders him to move into a retirement home so his house can be demolished and more homes built.
Carl is crafty though, and escapes buy inflating thousands of helium balloons which lift the house clear off the ground and up into the sky. It just so happens that Russell, a well meaning but rather annoying Wilderness Explorer is standing on his porch in the hope of earning his assisting the elderly badge.
Reluctantly, Carl lets Russell into the house and finally the house settles near a ravine, facing Paradise Falls. Russell and Carl attach themselves to the still buoyant house and start to walk it around the top of the ravine before the balloons deflate. Along the way they meet two completely over excited and utterly hilarious creatures. A tall, brightly coloured bird whom Russell names Kevin despite her being female, and Dug, a dog with a special collar that allows him to speak.
A pack of dogs give chase, all with talking collars. The Alpha dog’s collar has suffered an unfortunate malfunction leaving him with an incredibly high pitched voice. This isn’t integral to the plot, but it is hilarious.
The dogs lead them to Dug’s master, who turns out to be Charles Muntz. He lives aboard an airship where he has been since his disgrace. There is no word on how he eats, which concerns me, but Russell is more concerned that the bird Muntz is looking for is Kevin, and Carl tries to flee. Taking Russell, Kevin and Dug with him.
Muntz catches up and sets fire to Carl’s beloved house, forcing him to choose between the house or Kevin, and he rushes to put out the fire, leaving the way clear for Muntz to capture the bird. Carl and a very disappointed Russell reach the falls where Carl settles in his old arm chair to look through his and Ellie’s scrapbook. He finds a note from Ellie (cue more tears) which thanks him for the adventure and telling him to have a new one. Re-energised, Carl sets out to track down a despondent Russell who has decided to sail off on some balloons to find Kevin. Carl quickly empties the house of all its furniture so the house will take off and he can pursue him.
Muntz captures Russell, but Carl climbs aboard the airship and frees him and Kevin. A still overeager Dug somehow defeats Alpha and becomes the dogs’ new leader until finally Muntz corners the whole group.
They manage to escape onto the roof of the ship, and Muntz snags his foot on a rope and falls to his death. The house then descends through the clouds. Kevin gets reunited with her chicks and then Carl and Russell fly the airship back to the city. We see Carl presenting Russell with his Wilderness Explorer badge and finally, the house settles beside Paradise Falls.
As I said at the start of the piece, Up was met with universal critical acclaim, and critics described it as “masterful,” “Hilarious and heartfelt,” and “Winsome and touching.”
The character of Carl was praised for being a realistic portrayal of an elderly widow, who is almost sitting and waiting for it to be his turn. His life is turned upside down by circumstances beyond his control, so he decides to try and take some of that control back.
Russell was also met with praise, for being a central American-Asian character but also being voiced by someone of the same ethnic origin, which is not often done in Disney movies.
Up earned nearly $732 million at the worldwide box office, making it the sixth highest grossing film of 2009 and the fourth highest grossing Pixar film.
The film won two Academy Awards; Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. It also prompted several scientific experiments to see if it would be possible to make the house fly with balloons and the answer is yes, but not with the amount drawn in the film. Depending on the scene, Pixar animated between 10,000 and 20,000 balloons each time. Imagine the hilarious voices you could do with all that helium!
I love Up. It is, as has already been said, touching and beautiful. Each viewing brings with it a wide range of emotions. I really sob hard during the “married life” montage scene, and again at the end when Carl is at the Wilderness Explorer presentation evening in place of Russell’s parents. (It is implied in the film that they have split up and he doesn’t see his dad much.)
The relationship between Russell and Carl is adorable to watch unfold. Russell talks non-stop when Carl is used to silence, and when you’re together in an airborne house, there’s nowhere to hide. Gradually Carl comes around and realises that Russell is an incredibly sweet boy with a heart of gold, and the way Carl fights for him in the final few scenes proves just how much he has come to love him.
The humour comes in the form of Dug, who through his talking collar gives us an insight into an overeager dog’s mind. “Yes I do want that ball, I do, I do,” has me cracking up every time, as does “I have just met you, and I love you.” I love Dug, and I want a dog just like him; talking and everything.
Up really does lift you up. It’s a film you will watch and think “yeah, I loved that,” but just because I like to make people cry, I will leave you with the “married life” montage.
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