Is it a good or bad sign to cry like a baby within the first five minutes of a movie? Because this movie hits the ground running with the heartfelt, tear-jerking fun that Pixar is just so good at. Leaving me with an all time personal best of three scenes in the movie that brought tears to my eyes. Only continuing an almost unerring streak (let’s not talk about Cars) of leaving me with a sense of emotional exhaustion and a goofy smile plastered on my face.
Cry #1: The opening montage, spanning the life and relationship of Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Edward Asner) and his wife Ellie. Exploring their mutual desire for adventure, and the inevitable fate of life getting in the way. This scene packs multiple punches, but should all be counted as one. When Ellie discovers at the doctors office she can’t have children and all the sweet things Carl does to cheer her up. The multiple super-cute shots of the two of them getting old together. And of course, when her health fails and Carl ends up alone, with nothing but a house they built together and a big pile of memories.
Cry #2: The young boy Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), who accidentally tags along on the house-balloon-sailing trip, gets a chance to show some depth of character. He shares that his dad is never around to help him with all of his scout badges. That the woman who insists he bugs his father too much isn’t actually his mother. And that if he gets the final badge he needs, his dad will be there at the award ceremony. This explanation of his family is intentionally vague, and all the stronger for it. Watching the vulnerability on Russell’s face, and the realization on Carl’s… Man.
Cry #3: The handoff of a sacred memento from Carl to Russell in the conclusion of the movie. I’m trying my best not to spoil it. Not to say this moment isn’t expected or particularly surprising when it happens. But the way these two guys stand together at the end of the film makes you remember what movie magic is all about.
However, let’s not forget about what makes Pixar movies stand so high above all the rest. The fact that they are freaking hilarious. Rather than relying on pop culture references and potty humor (which have their place, don’t get me wrong), these guys put in genuinely funny, timeless jokes that keep you laughing. Dug, the dog, (voiced by Bob Peterson) will have you rolling on the floor. Capturing the actual essence and mindset of a golden retriever can’t be easy. Not to mention having to do it with words. But for anyone who has ever owned one of these dogs, you’ll recognize him instantly.
While Up is certainly not Pixar’s best movie to date, what it does have, which all of them have (yes, even Cars), is a story which is completely different. They’re not reinventing the wheel with cool new animation. They’re constructing an entirely different mode of transportation. Like flying a house with thousands of balloons.