I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a while, as I read heard good reviews of it (including from my older son, who had seen the movie in homeroom at his high school – apparently there are no well-defined activities for the homeroom period, so his teacher chose to show award-winning movies). So when we heard that Up! was the movie being shown after the ball game at Scout Night (an annual event at Modern Woodmen Park where the River City Bandits play), I was excited.
Unfortunately, the sound system didn’t seem to be well suited to playing movies. I don’t remember having the same problem when we saw The Rookie there – maybe it depends where on the field you sit. Of course, a ballpark’s sound system is arranged to direct sound to people in the stands, not in the field. Sometimes the voices were too faint to be made out clearly; other times they were loud enough but the echo effect (from having multiple speakers, far enough apart that the speed of sound is a factor?) still interfered with making out the words.
Up is such a good movie, though, that even having missed a good deal of the dialog, I still could appreciate it so much that I was eager to see it again. (And I rarely want to see a movie again so soon.) We watched it this evening, and I could pick up the details that had eluded me two nights ago. I had missed, for instance, what it was that Charles Muntz was looking for in South America, why he had been humiliated, and his vow not to come back until he had a live specimen of the strange bird. I had learned that later, but it made more sense hearing it at the beginning.
I also heard what it was Carl promised Ellie, to take them to Paradise Falls. I knew they both wanted very much to go, but I hadn’t realized it was a “cross-your-heart” promise. That explains a lot better why he was so determined to get there even if it killed him. I also picked up more details of Russell’s description of his father – especially that bit about counting red and blue cars. That’s a pretty important bit, about such commonplace things being the most important sometimes.
I marveled again at the complexity of the characters, that the moviemakers were able to portray in such a short amount of time. In G-Force yesterday, I felt that I knew almost nothing of the background or motivations of the characters even when the movie was over. In Up, every word and action added to the depth of the characters – but hardly at the expense of the storyline and the action sequences.
Like the best stories, Up is primarily a story, not a moral woven into a story. It touches on universal human themes of dreams (and broken dreams), love and loss, hard choices, and giving up something special for something even more important. I think it’s an oversimplification to say, as my 10-year-old did, that it’s about learning that living things matter more than possessions. Carl’s house mattered very much to him, but that was mostly because he had shared it with someone he loved so much.
It’s more about how to deal with disappointment and loss – with Charles Muntz being a spectacular example of how not to deal with failure. It’s great to have tenacity to strive toward a goal no matter how difficult it is. But it takes even greater character to give up that goal when you realize there’s something even more important. It’s about the adventure of life, and finding that adventure in ordinary activities with people who are important to you just because you love them.
I have no idea just how much of this children will consciously understand. But they’ll enjoy the movie because it tells a great story, and the deeper meanings will be planted to grow beneath the surface. There’s plenty of fun on the surface, with talking dogs (no magic – translator collars) and a very large playful bird, a midair fight, and some fantastic scenery. Oh, and some great music.