Sunday, January 8, 2017
When I first heard about Up I thought Pixar had lost the plot. What on Earth sort of name was Up? What did that mean?
Despite this I went and saw it fairly close to when it was released. I was hooked after the opening 10 minutes. I defy someone to watch that and not cry. If that opening doesn't move you, then you don't have a heart.
I also really liked the idea behind the dream of Carl and Ellie. Sparked by a newsreel about a Percy Fawcett style gentleman adventurer they wanted to go to Rainbow Falls in South America and find lost civilisations, Only life kept getting in the way and they never got the chance to do that, although they did forge a pretty nice life together.
As the world changes around Carl Frederickson and soulless developers build high rises around the house he shared with Ellie, it seems that his life is over until a well meaning kid called Russell offers to help him in order to gain his Helping the Elderly badge; the last one he needs to become a fully fledged Wilderness Explorer.
At first Carl treats Russell pretty much how he treats everyone else and sends him off on a wild goose chase after a non existent bird called a snipe. It is that fruitless chase that leads Russell under Carl's house, believing that what sounds like a rat is actually the snipe. Of course poor Russell is hiding out on Carl's porch when the old man turns his little suburban cottage into a dirigible.
What follows is a wonderful odyssey to the land of adventure fiction with long lost explorers, lost worlds, unknown species of animal and plant and of course talking dogs. Doug is the star of the dogs, and I have to agree with Russell who exclaims 'But he's a talking dog' when Carl suggests ditching Doug.
Carl finds out that his childhood hero was nothing of the sort and risks his dreams and life to save Russell, the 'snipe' Kevin and Kevin's babies.
He then forges a new life as a kind of surrogate father to Russell, who was apparently abandoned by his own father and has grown up without that influence.
It's a heartwarming and heartbreaking odyssey.
There was only one major name amongst the cast and that was Ed Asner as Carl. Carl was apparently based on Spencer Tracy, and there is some resemblance, but I more saw him as a cartoon version of Asner himself and particularly the grumpy old newsman Lou Grant that Asner is best known for portraying.
Christopher Plummer, best remembered as the father in The Sound of Music was cast as 'gentleman' explorer Charles F. Muntz. Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes and Percy Fawcett have been cited as inspirations. The only connections with Lindbergh and Hughes I can see are that Muntz was an aviator (dirigible rather than plane, though) and seemingly fabulously wealthy. Fawcett however is dead on. Fawcett, like Muntz, went missing while looking for a lost city in the wilds of South America. Unlike Muntz he probably perished in the wild.
Jordan Nagai, the unknown child actor who voiced Russell deserves special praise, his unaffected portrayal of the sweet kid is one of the things that makes Up a great film. He hasn't done anything of note since, but as he's only 16 there's plenty of time.
John Ratzenberger had an almost blink and miss it cameo as one of the workmen on the site around Carl's house, and was probably only included because he now has to be in every Pixar film.
Could the originality last?