It is so difficult to define beauty it must be well nigh impossible to create a unique version of beauty. For everybody other than the wizards at Pixar, that is. They are the fine folk that gave us Nemo, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and The Incredibles (among others).
They are the people that made it possible for millions to watch a rat take over a kitchen (in Ratatouille) and not think about how disgusting that would be in real life. They made us care about ants, cars, toys and a little lost fish. They are the only company that has a perfect hit record. Miracle visuals and inventive storytelling are now expected of movies that bear the Pixar logo. Their latest slice of movie magic is simply titled Up.
Released months ago in the US and most other parts of the world I am not sure why we had to wait so long to get it. No matter. The movie is here now and it is the only one for you this weekend. Doesn't matter if you don't have kids (conspire with others and book a kid-free screening if you can) because this is a movie for all ages. And it is a thing of beauty.
Carl Fredricksen's (voiced by Ed Asner) life has been one where adventure has been regularly postponed. As a child he was a huge fan of an adventurer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) and had hoped to some day follow the famous man's travel path. Until he encountered a little girl named Ellie, who was as much a Muntz fan as Carl and before long they were the best of friends. Friendship turned into love, love turned into marriage and life became a series of triumphs and disappointments that always left them with little choice other than to postpone their grand adventure of visiting Paradise Falls (following in the path of their hero).
Now all of this happens in the prologue of the movie, and if you're a touch breathless at the prospect of having received an entire life story so soon, just remember that this movie is actually the adventure of a seventy-something old man who decides to lift his family home right out of the ground (by tying a huge mess of helium balloons to the fireplace grate) and sets his course for Paradise Falls. You're going to need to regulate your respiration at conscious intervals because this movie is breathtaking. Especially in 3D which is not the showy 'stuff flies at you 3D' of the amateurs. In Up you feel the movie in another dimension. And what a feeling it is.
This is the curmudgeonly Carl's story through and through but he gets a nice set of quirky supporting characters in the form of Russell (Jordan Nagai), the young unwitting stowaway who joins him on his journey; Dug the talking dog who adopts Carl as his master upon his arrival at Paradise Falls and Kevin the brightly-plumed bird who befriends Russell.
Together this motley crew experience adventure, mishaps and that strange bonding that develops when unwilling companions are thrown together by circumstances a little beyond their control.
This is no mere children's cartoon. Sure the bright colours, multitude of balloons, and the hi-jinks of some of the minor characters will keep the young ones amused but this is really a date movie. Married couples, dating couples, not-quite-sure-they-are-couples-yet couples and everybody else who has ever wished they were part of a couple should go watch this movie. Everything that Carl does, he does because of his love for Ellie. Clearly this time around, the folks at Pixar were going for tear stains as much as they were aiming for laugh lines.
Rarely are the heights of emotion so effortlessly scaled in live action cinema as they are in this animated film. In the care that is given to every frame of this lush production you will see that romance is not dead certainly not in the hearts and minds of people who create the fictions that inform our lives.
Directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson ably assisted by their army of visualizers, lighting crew, modelers and animators have created a motion picture experience that will stand the test of time. This was the first ever animated movie to open the Cannes film festival. Who knows, it may also go on to become the first animated film to win the Best Picture Oscar. When you've seen it, you will know what I mean. This is what awe-inspiring storytelling is all about.
We've had a good couple of weeks at the movies recently, as far as Western fare is concerned. This is the cherry atop the icing on the cake. Watch Up this weekend and then hurry up and watch it again. I know I will.