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Pixar’s Up     

Posted by Katherine Putnam on December 9th, 2009

“Adventure is out there!”

I started this blog as a way to keep people up to date on my mission trip to Bolivia, hence the title “There and Back Again: Bolivia and Beyond.” While I’ve already made a start on the Bolivia portion of this blog I’d like to begin working on the “Beyond” portion. “Beyond” will come to encompass a lot of things in the future (including but not limited to post-Bolivia life updates and musings), but for now I want to use it as a way to express my passion for film. Therefore I’ll kick start the “Beyond” section of the blog with my review of Pixar’s newest hit: Up.


“I have just met you, and I love you!”

Mere hours before going to see Up, I found myself ranting to my friend Lisa about the state of children’s programs and films today. Perhaps I’m just an English major snob, but I find the vast array of mediocrity that we’re offering children quite insulting: insulting not only to the adults forced to sit through them with their charges but also to the children that make up the target audience.

Why do I find works like High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Zoey 101 and most of the other kids’ television programs and movies insulting? Because they assume their audience has no intelligence. Because they don’t bother creating characters, they use two-dimensional, overly stereotypical stock characters.  Because many times these shows and films don’t even bother trying to do anything new or interesting, they simply recycle plot lines as overused and underdeveloped as the stock characters that inhabit them. Because they don’t bother with character development or motivation. Because they assume that their young audience can’t handle serious subject matter.

Why have I rambled and ranted so long about the shortcomings of children’s programs and movies when I’m supposedly writing about Up? Because unlike the shows and films I ranted about, Up is a shining example of what family entertainment can (and should) be.

For those who haven’t seen Up I won’t ruin the plot for you; I’ll simply say that the film follows the adventure of 78 year old Carl Fredrickson as he attempts to fulfill a lifelong dream of living at Paradise Falls by flying there in a house suspended by balloons. On his adventure Carl is joined by 8 year old  Russell, a talking dog named Dug, and a host of other memorable characters.

This movie definitely respects its audience and shows that respect by delivering a well crafted story with well developed characters, hilarious comedy and moving drama: there is plenty in this movie for both kids and parents (or 22 year old college grads!) to enjoy.

As I stated above, the characters in Up are well developed characters, not recycled stock figures. The characters are memorable and, for children’s entertainment, unique. Rather than filling the cast with “hip” young characters or even a stereotypical family, Up’s three main characters consist of a crotchety old man (Mr. Fredrickson), a sweetly awkward young boy (Russell), and an enthusiastic and loyal dog (Dug). Each character was different and endearing, and I was pleased with Pixar’s choice to have such a wide age gap between the two human characters. While Russell’s age was not out of the ordinary, it is rarer to see a senior citizen as a main character (probably due to America’s tendency to hide the sick and the elderly so as not to be reminded of our own mortality). Of course, of all the characters, my favorite character was Dug, the lovable golden retriever. For anyone who has ever owned a dog you’ll see that the writers have perfectly captured the character of a canine!

Up weaves an entertaining and compelling story that is rich with both dramatic and comedic moments. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the plot and all its wonderful surprises, but I’ll do my best to praise the film without revealing spoilers. What I dearly loved about the movie’s comedic aspects was that they are diverse and genuinely funny. The film didn’t rely only on prat falls and overused jokes for its humor. As with many of Pixar’s movies there are jokes that the adults get that children won’t and gags that kids will guffaw at while adults will only chuckle. Despite these differences in reaction the fact remains that, by and large, the humor in the film appeals to both the children and the adults in the audience. Comedy aside, what I loved about the dramatic portions of the movie was how touching and real they were. The film had its share of heartbreaking moments that were beautifully and creatively portrayed. In my opinion Up had the perfect blend of comedy and drama: enough dramatic moments to keep it from being simply a fluff piece and enough comedy so it wasn’t too sad for family fare.

As I stated before, Up really sets the bar high for children’s entertainment, providing a stellar example of what it should be. Up presents a story filled with rich characters, entertaining comedy and moving drama. Most importantly (to me) is that Up achieves this by respecting its audience and trusting that its viewers can handle a mature, well crafted film. It doesn’t try to “dumb down” for the children in the audience like the examples I criticized above. Instead Up operates on the assumption that, given the chance, children can understand and appreciate mature characters, situations and comedy.

If you haven’t seen Up yet then you are missing out. Go buy it, rent it, borrow it (do anything but steal it) and watch it today!

“A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. A waltz which you can like only when you are waltzing is a bad waltz…Nothing seems to me more fatal, for this art, than an idea that whatever we share with children is, in the private sense, childish and that whatever is childish is somehow comic. We must meet children as equals…The child as reader [viewer] is neither to be patronized nor idolized: we talk to him as man to man.” – from C.S. Lewis’s “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”

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