A View From The Tower


August 31st, 2010 by Raven Garcia

Some of you may remember that one of my first posts on RavenGarcia.com was a film review (Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny), however this is something I haven’t continued with on a regular basis. The main reason for this is that I haven’t been to the cinema in ages or seen any newish films and I didn’t want to just review old films.

However, last week my mum came home with a copy of Disney & Pixar’s “Up” on DVD. Whilst I don’t really go for the Disney / Pixar type films these days, I thought I’d watch it as I was looking at the DVDs on the shelf in my room and it occurred to me that I’d seen all of them at least twice. So I thought I’d stick on Up purely for the sake of watching something new, and also because my mum had already watched it and it instantly became her favourite film, so I thought it can’t be bad (although her previous favourite film was Meet the Fockers, so I’ll leave you to make your own decisions on that). But having watched it, I thought I’d share my opinion with you all.

Up (2009)

Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

Right away, I have to congratulate the aminators on a job well done. As I mentioned above, this is not the usual type of film that I would go for. I never watched Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., or The Incredibles, so the whole Disney & Pixar thing is something relatively new to me. I’ve got to say I was highly impressed by the amount of effort that has clearly gone into rendering all of the scenery and backdrops, not to mention the characters.

We begin with one of the saddest intros to any film, animated or otherwise. Within the first 5 minutes, we pretty much see the title character Carl Fredrichsen’s life flash before us, from being a young boy watching footage of his hero, the legendary explorer Charles Muntz, to falling in love and getting married and then the death of his wife Ellie. It’s handled so poignantly you actually may have to remind yourself that it’s just a cartoon.

The film’s other central character, a boy scout (or Wilderness Explorer) named Russell, is introduced soon after the film reaches present day. He pays a visit to Carl’s house, which is now the only one remaining in the neigbourhood as big corporations have started to build skyscrapers all around it. Russell has every Wilderness Explorer badge bar one: his “assisting the elderly” badge. Carl sends him on a wild goose chase to get rid of him (I don’t blame him, I found Russell to be annoying at the best of times).

Even if you haven’t seen it, most of you will know what the basic concept of the film is; Carl attaches a load of balloons to his house to make it float away. However, this happens in a single scene. Two guys from the retirement home come to take Carl away, and as soon as their backs are turned the house lifts up and Carl makes his escape. On one hand, I’m wondering how Carl manages this as we don’t even see any scenes of him setting anything up. On the other hand, it’s sort of out of the blue. You know it’s coming but don’t expect it to happen so early on in the film, and when it does it has you wondering what the rest of the story has in store.

Russell is hiding on Carl’s front porch as his house lifts up and he finds himself whisked along for the adventure. Carl’s intended destination is Paradise Falls in South America, somewhere he and his late wife Ellie always dreamed of going. They reach South America fairly quickly, it must be said. Carl initially struggles to put up with Russell, but warms to him as the story progresses.

Now for the crazy part. They land in South America but on the opposite side of the canyon from the falls they are trying to reach. Somehow the two of them are able to pull the entire house along by a rope as it floats above them, even through thick vegetation. They encounter a dog that wears a special collar that converts it’s thoughts into speech, and spend the next day or so chasing a bird called Kevin who loves chocolate, all while being chased by a pack of other dogs, who also wear speech-collars and can fly bombers.

Wow. They were on drugs when they came up with this.

To top it all off, we find out that the dogs are being controlled by none other than Carl’s childhood hero, the explorer Charles Muntz. This perplexed me somewhat. In the commentary, Carl’s age is given as 78. The very first scene of the film shows a young Carl watching some footage of Muntz, in which Muntz is depicted as a young adult. Judging by Carl’s dimensions in the first few scenes I’d put him as roughly the same age as Russell, whose age is given as 8 (In fact, I suspect that the designers used the same model for young Carl as for Russell). So this puts Muntz’s age at around 103.

For a 103-year-old dude, Muntz is a very mobile antagonist (though the bit where he and Carl both freeze up with arthritis during a duel made me crack up, Muntz weilding a sword and Carl using his custom-made walking stick). Other than that, we see him climbing on top of a dirigible, flying a plane and chasing after Carl and Russell with a rifle. Plus he looks a lot younger than Carl. (In fact, he looks a bit like Kirk Douglas. I GENUINELY thought this when I watched the film, and when I looked online for a picture of both I discovered that I was not the first person to make this comparison, see below.)

I found myself asking a few questions. For instance, Why doesn’t Russell show even the slightest concern about getting home? At the end when Russell is shown receiving his final scout badge, his mother appears in the audience completely unphased that her 8-year-old son has been off risking his life in Venezuela for the last week or so. Talk about bad parenting. And if Muntz is just after fame and fortune then why doesn’t he return home and get a patent on those talking dog collar things? He’d make millions on those. I can see it now on Dragon’s Den – it would even be enough to make that grumpy cow Deborah Meaden put her money up for a change (though personally she looks like she could do with a collar herself).

Okay, I know it’s a children’s film and to some degree you need to use a little bit of imagination. But for a film whose opening 5 minutes hits you with reality so much as to make you wonder if this is in fact a kid’s film at all, they really overdid the fantasy aspect throughout the remainder of the film and bought new meaning to the term “far-fetched”. Some bits had me going “WTF”, but on the whole it sets a sad tone at the beginning and really does a good job of lifting you “Up”.

If you’re one of those people in their mid-20s who still loves watching kids’ films, you may not enjoy it as much as the Shrek or Toy Story films, but it’s still a very good effort with some top-notch animation and Ed Asner does a great job providing the voice of Carl. On the whole it’s an entertaining children’s film with a good message behind it: never to lose your sense of adventure. It’s sad to begin with, wacky in places, funny in others, and a little bit annoying at times. But if you’re under the age of 10, you’ll love it. I’m giving it 7 balloons out of 10.

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