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Balloon cladded Sadness

This headline sums my feelings about Up, the new Pixar feature. Without giving any spoilers, this is a sad movie about a person going through his entire life with his mind set up on fulfilling his childhood dream, but never getting the chance. The rest is just the adventure. And in the middle he realizes the adventure was just the special effects in his life, and the real thing has already happened. Of course the movie wants you to think it’s all about the “adventure” and flying houses and everything.

And now with the spoilers.

The main character is Carl Fredricksen. The movie starts with young Carl, at the end of the 1930s, meeting an amazing girl named Ellie, and they are both having a dream of conquering Paradise Falls in South America, a great scenic peak somewhere in nowhere. Later on they get married and live their life as two small and honest people.

Now Carl is a very sad character, one I felt most related to in the film. He leads happy, normal life with his wife, but they never get the chance to fulfill their dream. Ellie dies, leaving him all alone in their little house. Carl is now full of remorse of opportunities missed and entire lifetime that just went by. He also misses Ellie terribly. If this was a real story, Carl simply would have lived his remaining years as best as he could, eventually dying sad and lonely (since they had no kids) But this is not real life, so he goes on an adventure instead. But let me continue a bit more about him.
Carl becomes very possessive about his stuff: pictures, little ornaments and some furniture, which become priceless irreplaceable symbols that remind him of the most important things in his life. This is one of his habits I felt most related to. To emphasize Carl’s withdrawal and seclusion in his little house in contrast with the real world outside, his property is suddenly in the middle of a construction site: his nice suburb is being turned into a busy metropolitan area.
One of the strongest moments in the movie is when Carl realizes, like most adventure heroes, that his grand adventure has already happened, and it was his life with his wife Ellie, living day by day and enjoying their love and the little things they shared. His adventure with the annoying Russel and the rest of the characters is just a sideshow, just a couple of fireworks and expensive movie effects in comparison with his entire life.

But enough about Carl. I must mention Kevin, that strange colorful bird, one of the best comic reliefs ever. Her dumb yet knowing look – an effect that happens, I think, mainly because she doesn’t move her eyes and simply stares around – is hilarious. And how she repeatedly expresses her opinion (she can only like and not like. Nothing in between) about the surrounding characters is fantastic. Kevin is a great example of repeating gags you never get tired of, unlike Russel…

I’m tired of that idiot yet good and kind boy who’s always in the way and takes half the movie to keep in pace with the rest of the plot. Russel is an annoying character and it would have done great with the movie if Carl kicked him out of his house at the beginning. I bet Carl wouldn’t have reached Paradise Falls (having no GPS), but even then it would have been better off without Russel.

And as for the plot. It’s a typical adventure. Nothing new in there. Hollywood has been doing the same trick since Star Wars, and even before that.

The animation is marvelous! Kevin is done magnificently, also the rest of the dogs. Carl really conveys the feeling of an old man, although not so much when he’s bust jumping, crashing, pulling and pushing heavy things and doing other actions elderly folk are not usually seen doing. The animators have added some nice secondary motion when he clicks his lips together.

I watched UP in 3D, and I must say it was utterly useless. I did not feel more “inside” the movie wearing those glasses. The shots were not created with the thought of 3D in mind, I guess, or else they could have done better job by emphasizing the depth of the shots and making some interesting camera stunts during the action scenes. There was also a bit of a yellow tint caused by the glasses. Not sure if it’s the glasses to blame, or the technology.

In conclusion, UP is a fine adventure movie. But more than that, it’s a sad story about things and people we long for and how we perceive our lives: have we already had our adventure, or are we in the middle of it. I guess most of us are often changing their mind about that. Depends on our mood.

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