Friday, July 17, 2009

Up, More Than Just an Animated Movie

As many may or may not know, I have had to reflect on life recently, the meaning of life, love, eternity, purpose, the whole bit. I have done this knowing the reality that my mother was getting closer to the end of her life. A few weeks ago I was finishing up a concert series with a wonderful band named Shel. Between promoting them in 8 concerts and being a part of the opening act we got to spend a lot of time together. On Fathers Day, the band decided to take my wife and I to the movies so we went to watch Disney/Pixars’ summer hit, Up. I had wanted to see this movie as I love great animation and Pixar had yet to let me down, they didn’t just impress me though Pixar provided a movie that for me, up until this point in time, the middle of July, is simply put, by and far, up and away, the best, most entertaining, enjoyable movie of the summer. As of this writing, Up is still in the top 10 films of the summer, and is the third highest grossing film of the summer. I expect that by the time it is all said and done, (including DVD release and sales) Up will even surpass the sixth installment in the Harry Potter series.

Up provides a tremendous story of growing up, letting go, and dreaming. It provides much more than that though, what Up does is causes one to reflect like few films of recent memory. Surprising to some, but not to me, Up is far more of an adult story than a story for children. We see the growth and development of Carl Fredricksen, voiced by Ed Asner, from childhood to old age. In fact the first 15 – 20 minutes of this film could work as a stand alone short, and may be the most emotional 15 – 20 minutes of a film in its opening sequences ever filmed. I would anticipate that easily 70% of the audience is in tears as we see the growth of Carl. This establishes a back drop into old age that any of us past 35 can likely relate to. One of the attributes of a great film though is that it causes one to reflect when they normally wouldn’t. That being the case, one could say that Up goes beyond this point of being a good film to being a great film as it is likely the overwhelming majority of the audience, even young adults watching this film reflect on life in a way they wouldn’t have normally.

Not only does Up provide an incredible first 15 – 20 minutes, it also provides an entertaining joy fest and heartwarming event for the eyes and soul. Everything from the story to the visuals, to the voice talent and music is special. This animated feature does something unique and rare; it takes the viewer into the special world of animation, where only certain things are possible, and then has the viewer forgetting that they are watching animation. In that sense, UP is magical.

While many think the movie is primarily about the young boy, Russell, it is really about the development and growth of Carl, even in his old age, he has lessons to learn, and while it may be hard to teach an old dog new tricks, Carl is open to learning and in that learning process, we all learn there is something we can learn even in old age. We learn things like recognizing and seeing the important things around us. We learn that while we should always be willing to go for our dreams, sometimes the real dreams, the real joys are the things around us. We learn to see that we should never take for granted the things we have, especially the loved ones around us.

Simply put, I loved this movie and now, almost a month later, haven’t been able to get the film out of my mind. As mentioned earlier, I have done a lot of reflecting on life lately. I returned from my mothers funeral a week or so ago, and Pixar did something that we sometimes fail to see in movies, or if we do see it, we are often afraid to let the filmmakers do what they long for, that is allow a movie to touch us, touch us somewhere deep inside the heart, deep inside the soul. I will forever be grateful to a band called Shel for this blessing in life when I needed it. While the movie isn’t perfect, it isn’t far from it. But more importantly than a critical review of a film, it is important I as a person who on occasion reviews film, often watches and enjoys film, realize that film, especially film like Up is a work of art that can reach in, grab the heart, and cause the mind to see things in a different light, and often cause us to walk along a different path in life. In that journey, it is important to understand that loving others is in fact a spiritual journey. I realize that in my faith, God tells me, that loving others in essence loving him. That includes loving my wife in the same way Jesus loved the church, but it also includes loving an orphaned child in a way as to let that child know I am there with them, even in the special moments when they need a loving parent the most. While we may not all be fathers or mothers best friends, or teachers to children, we can be one that provides love to someone in need. I doubt any movie will illustrate these points more seriously and more poignantly this year than Pixars’ Up.

I could write many more paragraphs about this movie, but why do that, I would simply encourage you, if you haven’t seen it, go see it while it is still in theaters. You are going to see a great short from Pixar prior to the start of the movie, but then you are going to see a great movie. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you that. On a scale of 1 – 10, for the 5 letters in Pixar, the two in Up, and the one special feature, I give a very deserving 8. Heck forget that, it is better than an 8 let’s go with a 9, like I said, not quite perfect, but almost.

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