Back in the days of Looney Tunes, it was apparent to anyone who would take time to see that these cartoons were not made for children. They were made for adults.
Disney/Pixar’s new movie, “Up,” is a cartoon made for adults. It has a very adult story about a man named Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner). Carl is a grumpy old man. But no one starts out as a grumpy old man.
In what is one of the best introductions of a story, we see little Carl, a boy taken with adventure. He is in the movie theater watching a newsreel about his hero, Charles Muntz, explorer (Christopher Plummer). The newsreel tells of the drumming out of the explorer’s fraternity that Muntz suffered for claiming a discovery that is proven to be a hoax. None of this affects little Carl. He loves Muntz.
Carl soon meets a little girl named Ellie (Elie Docter). They are kindred spirits. Time passes and they marry. They dream of going to South America and being explorers. But, as John Lennon famously said, life happened while they were making other plans. As we fully enter the story, Ellie dies and Carl is left alone.
When we find him in the present time, Carl is sitting on his porch watching a big corporation build around him. He will not sell because to sell is to give up the dream he and Ellie held. An unfortunate action puts Carl in jeopardy of losing the house and being sent to a “retirement community.” Carl hatches a scheme.
When the attendants come to take him to the retirement home, his house springs forth in balloons and he flies off seeking South America. As he ascends into the sky, there is a knock on the door. He goes and finds young Russell (Jordan Nagai), a Wilderness Explorer that is trying to earn his “Assisting the Elderly” merit badge. After some reluctance, Carl lets Russell join him on the adventure.
They pass through a storm, much like the one in “The Wizard of Oz,” and arrive in South America. Like “The Wizard of Oz,” this land is full of wonder, beauty and danger. There they find a very large bird named Kevin, some talking dogs and a long-lost explorer.
“Up” is a movie that continues the fine tradition of Pixar and John Lassiter. Words cannot truly do justice to this sweet movie. And it is sweet. It is sweet not in a cotton-candy way, but in a bittersweet way. It is a piece of dark chocolate that touches that part of us that enjoys the taste of chocolate but also reminds us that not everything is sugary. We see both the joys and sorrows as part of the larger whole.
This is like a Rembrandt painting. We see the light that penetrates the dark, but the dark is there as well. And that is why this is not just another cartoon.
Pixar movies touch us with pathos. This movie is filled with pathos and redemption. Those who can really appreciate a movie like this are those who have walked a while together in the journey of life. They know what it means to be with another and how the mystery of “two becoming one” happens.
For you who have not been to a movie in a long time, go see this one. You will not regret it. Go see it with someone you love. Go see it with your husband or wife.
People complain that there is nothing good in the movies. They are filled with sex and violence. Movies are too loud and too flashy. Why don’t they just make an old-fashioned movie like they used to? This is that movie. Please don’t miss it.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for peril and action.
Directors: Peter Docter and Bob Peterson
Writer: Bob Peterson
Cast: Ed Asner: Carl Fredrickson; Christopher Plummer: Carl Muntz; Jordan Nagai: Russell; Bob Peterson: Dug/Alpha; Delroy Lindo: Beta; Jerome Ranft: Gamma; Elie Docter: Young Ellie.
The movie’s official web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.