First, let me qualify this review with a statement of protest. I did not see this movie in digital 3-D. I have no intention of seeing any movie in digital 3-D. Digital 3-D is a way for big production companies to make more money from fewer people because fewer people are able to watch those movies in the movie theater. And it isn’t that good. And the movies that are coming out in digital 3-D don’t need to be in 3-D at all. They are kid flicks. They are preying on childhood excitement and parental fear of failure. People are falling for it. Now…on to the movie…
The first ten minutes of “Up” are alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking. In form that only Pixar can pull off, the story is told more in action than dialogue. The protagonist is easy to fall in love with, even when (perhaps especially when) he’s being a big jerk. And on the surface, it seems as though it is a merely a story to tug on the heartstrings without making any kind of social commentary. On the surface. There are actually three distinct societal undercurrents in “Up” and each is represented by a distinctive and unforgettable character.
Carl: Carl has lost his wife, retired, and stubbornly clung to his independence despite the world crushing in on him. Rather than giving Carl what he needs (moral support, respect, and companionship), people are either trying to step on him or over-help him. Even Russell assumes that he must need extra help with things because of his age. Carl is the perfect commentary on the American approach to aging.
Russell: It isn’t until well into the movie that we realize that Russell’s motivation for helping Carl is to earn a badge that will get his father to spend time with him. While there is certainly some level of commentary on absent fathers, the stronger message is (or perhaps should be) the lengths that a boy will go to please his father. Remember, Russell was gathering up badges for his dad before his dad went AWOL. Which leads us to
Charles Muntz: My one objection with “Up” is that Charles Muntz reminded me entirely too much of Goob in “Meet the Robinsons.” Interestingly, the symbolism behind Muntz seems to be the same. Both characters were striving for a high degree of recognition from their peers and when they received negative recognition, they freaked out and became VBMs (very bad men). While unrealistic in the literal sense, Pixar does have something of a point. American society places tremendous value on peer recognition at all ages.
I could get into how all three characters also display qualities of ambition, and how their ambitions are different, but you’re probably already bored. S & I scores:
Significance Factor: 3
Inspiration Factor: 4
Overall S & I Score: 3.5