Sunday, June 23, 2019

Adventure is Out There

Directors: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Voice Talent: Ed Asner, Christoper Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Delroy Lindo, Bob Peterson
Released: May 29, 2009
Viewed in theaters: June 7, 2009

Oscar nominations:

Best Picture (lost to The Hurt Locker)
Best Animated Feature (won)
Best Score - Michael Giacchino (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, and Tom McCarthy (lost to Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker)
Best Sound Editing (lost to The Hurt Locker)

I propose a challenge for everyone reading this. I challenge you to watch this movie and not cry within the first ten to fifteen minutes. Or at the very least, not get a lump in your throat. I obtained the lump in my throat during the Carl and Ellie montage when we discover that Ellie isn't able to have children and by that point, I knew the waterworks were about to start. Sure enough, the tears are starting to form when (a much elderly by then) Carl is helping Ellie up a hill to have a picnic, then the next thing we know she's in a hospital bed, then he's at her funeral and the tears are flowing by then. But guess what? That scene doesn't even evoke the most emotion out of me; oh no, there will be another scene later on in the movie that will make me cry even harder if that's even possible! Those Pixar movies really know how to mess with your emotions, don't they?

Up is probably the most famous for its first ten minutes. Even if you've never seen it (for shame!), you're probably well aware of the opening montage as that's all anybody ever talks about when it comes to this movie. While watching this, I couldn't help asking myself such questions as, How does this man fly his house with only balloons attached to it? How does he get said balloons to fit through his chimney (and there are thousands of them!)? When they land in South America on top of the cliff where Paradise Falls is located, how does Carl, an eighty-year-old man, mind you, have the strength to keep hold of his house via the hose as though he's just carrying a balloon? (I mean, I guess he is carrying a balloon, along with several hundred others and his HOUSE!) Why does Russell's mom seem not to be worried about him? Why is Russell himself very lackadaisical about being on the outside of the blimp and nearly gets killed several times as he has many close calls of falling to his death, but all he can say is, "Whee, this is fun!"/"This is so cool!", even though he is scared to death when he's on Carl's front porch when the house starts its ascent (and he's much more safe when he's on that porch than any other time in the movie!) There are definitely some scratch-your-head moments (and there are more I will point out), but I really can't quibble about that. After all, this is the same studio who gave us sentient toys and talking fish and a rat who cooks at a restaurant in Paris. And whatever anybody says, this movie is still more believable than any of the Cars movies. (I just don't understand how a society of vehicles work. How do they eat? Is fuel their food? How are new cars made? Why are there no humans in that world?)

We first meet our protagonist, Carl Fredrickson, as a young wide-eyed introverted boy who loves watching movies about adventures, his favorite being about his hero, the famed explorer Charles Muntz who has discovered a skeleton of some sort of "beast", but has been accused of fabricating it. He vows to return to Paradise Falls, the place in South America where he discovered the fossils, and find the creature. He has a blimp called The Spirit of Adventure where he travels with his many canine companions. Carl is about eight when he watches these documentary films and Charles looks to be in his thirties; maybe in his twenties at the youngest. Just keep that in mind.

Carl meets another explorer enthusiast and Charles Muntz fan, Ellie, a loquacious girl who graciously invites him to join her adventure club. She shows him her adventure book where she tells him she plans to one day follow in the footsteps of their hero and travel to South America where she wants to live in her clubhouse on top of Paradise Falls. She doesn't know how she's going to get there and Carl suggests a blimp just like Muntz has. Ellie thinks that's a great idea and makes him "cross his heart" that he'll take them there someday and he promises he will. I love how she describes South America - "It's like America, but it's south!"

They form a friendship which will inevitably turn into an unbreakable bond and the two marry and this is when we get our montage and where we need to get our Kleenex handy! We see where the balloons come in because they both work at the zoo; Ellie looks to work in the aviary (she has a bird on her shoulder) and Carl sells balloons. They create a fund for their South America trip, but life keeps happening and they have to dip into their savings to fix a broken car or repairs on the house or anything of that sort. (Not sure why they kept smashing the jar with a hammer when they needed to get their money when they could have just as easily turned the jar over and poured the money out!)
They are getting older and Carl realizes that he still has not taken Ellie on her adventure so he purchases airline tickets to Peru which he plans to surprise her with. Alas, it is too late and Ellie will never get to go on her adventure of a lifetime. And Pixar is making everybody cry buckets.

Carl (voiced by Ed Asner)  is now a curmudgeon who refuses to leave his house even though the other homes around it have been torn down to build a new development with much larger buildings. The contractor keeps bribing Carl with money to move, but he refuses, so they just keep building around him. I'm not really sure how something like that works, but I would think if your neighborhood is being torn down, you would HAVE to move (and hopefully they would compensate you nicely). I don't think you could just stay there. But, remember, this is a movie with talking dogs.

After a small incident where Carl injures a construction worker in a fit of rage, he is sent to court where he is deemed "a pubic menace" and is sentenced to move to the retirement home, Shady Oaks. (Wonder if it's a sister company to Shady Pines; I can see Carl and Sophia Petrillo getting along just fine!) When Shady Oaks employees come to retrieve Carl, he has other plans and to their surprise, they watch as the house breaks free from its foundation and lifts into the sky with a whole bunch of balloons streaming out of the chimney. (Still not sure how he managed to get all those balloons in that chimney!) I read that over 20,000 balloons were animated for this sequence. We also see a small cameo from a  stuffed Lotso bear when the house passes by an apartment building where we see a young girl's room. Pixar likes to put in a little Easter egg for their next movie and Toy Story 3 followed Up. Hopefully this Lotso got lots of love from his owner so he doesn't turn out jaded and cynical like Lotso from Toy Story 3! Not gonna lie; I got really nervous when Carl got awfully close to those wires even though I knew he wasn't going to hit them!

Carl promised a young Ellie he was going to take her to Paradise Falls and he still vows to keep that promise; even if Ellie is no longer physically with him. He soon finds out, however, he's not alone, and I'm not talking about Ellie's cremated remains in a vase on top of the mantle. Russell, a young boy who belongs to a Wilderness Explorer Club who we were introduced to a couple scenes ago when he asked Carl if he could help him in order to get his "Assisting the Elderly" badge, the only one left he needs, was hiding under Carl's porch, looking for a fictitious perky bird Carl had made up to get rid of the kid so he could leave him alone. Ha, joke's on you, Carl! It is pretty funny when he discovers Russell is airborne with him. He's sitting in his chair when he hears someone knocking on the front door...while he's several thousand feet in the air. This is when he discovers Russell visibly shaking on the front porch...and this fear of heights will soon diminish. I did laugh when Carl takes out his hearing aid when the kid is rambling on and on.

They soon manage to travel all the way to South America (I have no idea how that is even feasible!) and land on top of Paradise Falls. This is where the movie turns a little bit crazy, but at the same time, we learn how everything ties in. First we meet a tall colorful exotic bird similar in size and stature to an emu or an ostrich, I would guess. This bird seems to love chocolate; actually it loves eating anything as it eats Carl's walker (before spitting it back up) and tries to eat a balloon which pops in its throat. I was afraid she was going to choke on it, but she spits the deflated balloon out. Despite being dubbed "Kevin" by Russell, we soon find out she is a female bird. Then we will meet Dug, a "talking" golden retriever who is easily distracted by squirrels. "SQUIRREL!" Dug has a device on his collar that allows him to "speak" English. This thing doesn't seem to be translating his barks, but actually his inner thoughts because he's not barking when he's "speaking". Dug is my favorite character in this movie.

Dug isn't the only talking dog in Paradise Falls. Remember Charles Muntz, the guy who should be dead by now because he is, at the very least, fifteen years older than Carl, who is now 80? (And I'm willing to bet there's more than fifteen years between them). The point is, this guy should be dead, but he's still very much alive (and voiced by Christopher Plummer) and still in South America where he is still trying to seek the creature of the skeleton he found (who, coincidentally, looks a lot like Kevin -ruh-roh!) He has a whole crew of canine companions who have these high tech collars that allow them to talk. I don't understand why this guy is so obsessed with finding this bird when he could literally be making millions of dollars (if not billions) by manufacturing this collar. Do you know how many people would love to communicate with their dogs? This things is a goldmine! I know, I know, he wants people to believe him about the bird being real, so he's set on finding one.

Carl is in awe when he meets his childhood hero (probably because he's still alive!) and he invites them to dinner onboard the Spirit of Adventure. (Should that be in italics?) Not only can his bevy of dogs talk, but they perform tasks such as house (airship?) cleaning and even cooking. This guy trained dogs how to cook. Just let that sink in. I love when the dog serves Russell his hot dog, he tries to eat it! When Muntz tells Carl that it's "a real treat" to have guests visiting him, all the dogs get excited when they hear the word "treat." There's just lots of little funny moments with the dogs that even I, as a cat person, can enjoy.

Muntz's top dogs are Alpha, Betta, and Gamma. Alpha is an intimidating doberman, but his collar has broken and he speaks with a squeaky cartoon-y voice which doesn't make him very intimidating at all. I not only love the way his cadence sounds; but the language he uses is also quite amusing: "Master will be most pleased." Muntz has all these dogs, not only to perform all these household tasks for him, but to help him track the bird. When he shows the skeleton of the creature he is trying to capture, stupid Russell is all like, "Hey, that looks like my new giant bird pet!" and proceeds to tell Muntz pretty much exactly how to capture the bird by telling him she likes chocolate. Carl tries to play it off, telling Muntz the bird ran off and is gone now. See, Carl could have easily let Muntz take the bird, but he knows Russell is attached to it and doesn't want anything bad to happen to her. You know that saying, Never meet your hero because you might end up being disappointed? Well that applies to this scenario because Carl is soon learning that his hero is kind of a huge jerk.

Kevin is spotted by Muntz and he orders his dogs to attack her. She is saved by Carl and Russell and Dug, who now considers Carl his new master. However, Kevin get injured by Alpha while trying to escape and they help her get back to her nest and offspring. Muntz is waiting with a net and captures her and it's a very upsetting scene! Carl has to choose between saving Kevin or saving his house. In order to stop Carl from freeing Kevin, Muntz sets his house on fire and Carl runs to pull it out of harms way while the dogs drag Kevin onboard the blimp.

Remember when I said that there's a scene that made me cry even more than the montage? After Carl has placed the house by the waterfall, exactly where Ellie dreamed of living, he looks at her adventure book. She had a section labeled "Stuff I'm Going To Do" which would document all her adventures in South America. We see Carl looking at this page earlier in the movie, forlorn that Ellie never got to have her adventure but it isn't until this moment when he noticed that there are photos beyond that page. She has their wedding photo and all the memories they spent together. She may have never gotten to go to Paradise Falls, but this was her adventure. At the bottom of the last page, she wrote, "Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one! Love, Ellie." Yes, this is the scene that made the tears flow. I bet with all the crying I've done watching Pixar movies, I could fill up a two-liter bottle!

This motivates Carl to rescue Kevin and this is when we get a crazy scene with Russell nearly falling to his death on the outside of the airship and dogs are flying bomber planes and Carl and Muntz have their old man fight (which was pretty funny) and Muntz gets his Disney-esque death by falling to his demise. Kevin is returned safely to her babies and the others return home with the Spirit of Adventure and Carl becomes a grandfather figure for Russell, who seems to have adopted Dug, even though he said earlier in the movie that his apartment building doesn't allow dogs.

There are definitely flaws with this movie, but the good outweigh the bad; I mean, I can't say there's really anything bad about this movie. Among Pixar's movies, I would personally rank it in my top - SQUIRREL! - ten, maybe even five, but I'd have to really think about where it would be on my list. Perhaps a Pixar ranking is in the works, wink, wink.

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