In what premiered on my tenth birthday in 2009, “Up” went on to tell a wild and original tale of love, adventure, role models and how family is found in all places.
With exceptional voice acting from Ed Asner as crotchety old man, Mr. Fredricksen, “Up” breaks ground from the very beginning with its portrayal of the progression of Mr. Fredricksen and his now deceased wife’s relationship.
While Pixar has been known to set industry standards for both animation and storytelling in family films before, what was seen in “Up” was unprecedented.
Many parents who went into the theatre with their children were reduced to tears by the honest and realistic portrayal of Mr. Fredricksen’s marriage and life with his wife.
The aforementioned opening sequence depicted Mr. Fredricksen meeting his wife all the way back when they were children and showed how they fell in love and were married. But it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
The sequence also shows the couple’s desire for children and subsequent struggle with infertility as the couple shifts their focus from starting a family to traveling the world. They even set up a quarter jar in a novel effort of saving for a trip to Paradise Falls. But life happens, and the jar is broken on numerous instances for broken bones, cars needing repairs and other bits of life.
The couple save for this trip for decades, planning on eventually making the trek. But age and illness catch up to Mr. Fredricksen’s wife Ellie. Which ultimately leads to her death and the end of the opening sequence in “Up.”
The rest of the movie sees Mr. Fredricksen attach balloons to his house, fly to Paradise Falls and battle a famed explorer he grew up idolizing. All while befriending a talking dog, a giant rare bird named Kevin and a young Wilderness Explorer scout named Russell, who is looking to earn his final merit badge for assisting the elderly.
While those parts of the movie certainly sound more family friendly, the writing and depiction of these characters still feels very real and heartfelt.
“Up” does what every film tries to do; it makes us invested in the story and the well-being of the characters, and the film captures our emotions, making us hold on tight until the very end.
This isn’t because of the big set pieces, wacky characters or moments of levity. Rather, the message the film continually leaves us with is what pulls at your heart and endears this movie to its audiences.
That message is that we will not always find everything we are looking for in life the way we want or anticipate finding it.
Mr. Fredricksen wanted to have a family with his wife but couldn’t, Russell wants his estranged father to be there when he isn’t a part of his life at all, and on and on and on.
But these characters ultimately find what they’re looking for, and while it isn’t the way they had planned or hoped it to be, this is the way it is, and they are more than willing to find solace in one another. Because after all, it isn’t just the people you’re born to that constitute family, but also the people you encounter in life and grow to love.
What that means and who is a part of our families varies person to person. No one person’s family or means of finding them are better or more correct than anyone else’s. All we can ever really ask for is a good journey to that point of discovery. For some it is a trip to Paradise Falls, for me it’s as simple as sitting on the back porch with my mom and dad on Father’s Day.
Grant Mitchell is a junior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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