Losing a loved one is, by far, the hardest thing someone will face throughout their life. Whether it's a loved a loved one, a sibling, a best friend, a husband, a wife, a parent, the loss is hard to ever fully overcome. Coping with death is a complicated affair; some block memories of that person to avoid the pain; some take their anger out on others, becoming shadows of their former selves; some move on, with a peice of that person's life always with them.
Carl Fredrickson tied an immense amount of balloons to his house and floated to South America.
This, in principle, is the one-sentence synopsis of Disney/Pixar's first 3D film, UP. However, this film should not be condensed in any way. Though the PG rating and Disney' reputation will suggest that the movie only appeals to younger viewers, this is miles away from the truth. A sentimental, heart string-pullling tale of true love, adventure, and keeping promises to those who matter most to us can apply to the life of a 3D loving eight-year-old or a 40-year-old geezer driving the van to said eight-year-old's birthday party.
To start the film off, we are intrduced to the book's main character, Carl. As all good stories begin, Carl's story begins with a girl named Ellie. Both adventure seekers in their own right, Carl and Ellie cross their hopes and pray for wings to fly to their dream land, Paradise Falls, Venezuela. Through a series of montages, we learn of Carl and Ellie's life together, the highs (marriage) and the lows (Ellie's apparent miscarraige), and ultimately, Ellie's death. Vowing to make it to Paradise Falls, Carl uses his undying love for balloons to carry his dreams and aspirations as an adventurer (both figuratively and literally) to new heights. As he sits down to enjoy his peaceful journey toward his heaven on earth, Ellie's picture next to him, Carl encounters two storms: one, a literal storm, and two, Russell: an eight-year-old wilderness explorer with an appetite. Russel has taken a liking to Carl, which cannot be immediately explained. The tw crash land to their destination where they meet Dug, a talking Dog, and Kevin, a rare, otherwise non-existent bird, and a mother of three (Russel names him Kevin before he knows she's a she). These four embark on an adventure for the ages, in which they must band together to face their greatest fears and challenges to come out okay in the end.
Where UP succeeds is, in my opinion, everywhere. The scenery of this magical world created by Pixar is as breathtaking as it is myterious, and provides the perfect backdrop for a tale of self-exploration and action. The development of each character in the movie, even Dug and Kevin, are so detailed and well-thought-out, it's hard not to like them. We know basically everything about Carl from the first 10 minutes of the film, but as his life goes on, the viewer is taken away by his journey through not only South America, but his ability to let go of the sadness of his wife's death. Carl is depicted as a tragic hero, indeed, but by film's end, he finds triumph through this tragedy in an unexpected way. The most impressive characterization, however, is through Russell. Disney's well-respected team does an incredible job of showing Russell's innocence of his young age, as Russell provides an inspiration for Carl and the movie's (likely) numerous viewers of the way we all felt at that age.
I'd like to think I have a grip on reality. I know houses can't fly, dogs can't talk, and many of the bizarre situations in UP are far from realistic. But with such a deep, thought-provoking plot and rich, believeable characters. The storyline is far-fetched, but the conflicts are real, and the story is heartwarming. UP is, for lack of a better phrase, a cinematic masterpiece. It will make you laugh, make you cry, take your breath away, and bring your emotions all over the place. But most importantly, UP will restore the kid in everyone, giving everyone a reason to hold their heads, dreams, and hearts to the sky. Who knows, the real Carl Fredrickson may be UP there.
....Oh, and there's a preview for Toy Story 3 in there too.