Disney has never had a great relationship with death. Throughout it’s long history, parents of central characters have either died offscreen or before the story even takes place, with no mention being made of them. That was until Up, The latest joint release from the “House of Mouse” and Pixar.
Expanding up the montage technique employed within Wall-E where no dialogue was used for most of the early portion of the movie, we are introduced to Carl (Ed Asner) and how he came to fall in love with his wife Ellie over a mutual live for exploration. Sadly, life intervened and despite all their best intentions, they were never able to fulfil their dream to visit Paradise Falls, a tropical haven where Charles F. Munz (Christopher Plummer) their childhood idol had disappeared. Upon Ellie’s death and entering the main body of the piece, with no other option but a retirement home, Carl sails his house off in the hopes of keeping his promise to her. That is until he finds Russell (Jordan Nagai), a naive nature explorer trapped on his airborne porch.
I must admit, I went into this expecting the worst, believing that Pixar and CGI in general have contributed (at least in part) to the decline in intelligent cinema; the reliance on such technologies has often led to convoluted, poorly constructed scripts that have plenty of themes and metaphors but no real heart. Such glaring issues were ironically evident in District 9 and Avatar, the two other movies nominated for Best Film in this years Oscars that employ CGI. Up in comparison, which is completely computer generated (the two others employing both CGI and live action elements), has no such problems. The story despite the the often absurd elements is written with such simplicity and honesty that it never condescends or builds itself into something it is not. Each character develops organically, nothing they do or say is completely superfluous but neither does it feel forced. We feel for Carl and Ellie when without words being used, they learn they cannot conceive or as Carl is forced to say goodbye to the only woman he loved.
The remaining characters are explored and fleshed out to such an extent that even when the story calls for a villain, the antagonist offered is far from rudimentary.
The comic elements are littered throughout, perhaps not always offering us a laugh out loud moment, rather a balance between the potentially serios nature of the narrative and detracting from the same.
That a completely artificially constructed world can illustrate more humanity that most other movies have this past year, makes it one of only two films I can say deserves its Oscar nomination.