Reviewed by: Ethan Samuel Rodgers
|Featuring||Voices of Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, John Ratzenberger, David Kaye, Elie Docter, Jeremy Leary, Mickie McGowan, Danny Mann, Donald Fullilove, Jess Harnell, Josh Cooley, Pete Docter|
|Director||Pete Docter, Bob Peterson|
|Producer||Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter, Jonas Rivera|
|Distributor||Buena Vista Pictures|
It simply is astounding how, what are essentially drawings, can extract so much emotion and intimate feelings out of us as human beings. As I sit in a theater, my mind tells me I am watching fiction, something which man has created for entertainment, and, in this case, laughter. Logic says that a film is nothing more than light projected onto a screen. But Pixar has somehow found a way, yet again, to convince my heart that there’s something more to movies than just light and sound.
Carl Fredrickson is the picturesque portrait of an ordinary American senior citizen. He’s grown old with his once adventurous wife and found that life has quite a way of passing you by. Carl’s dream, and his wife Ellie’s dream, was always to travel to Paradise Falls in South America, a place that is said to be “forgotten by time.” They planned from childhood to fly away and leave the world behind on a grand adventure, but like so many plans we make that get lost in the buzz of everyday life, Carl and Ellie never quite get around to it, and before Carl realizes it, he is not only too old for their adventure, he is also alone after Ellie passes away.
His plan, it seems, is to live in his house in solitude, harkening back to memories of his beloved, while awaiting his own death, but when an unfortunate and unintended accident occurs in Carl’s front lawn, he finds himself labeled as a “menace to society” and is ordered by a court to move to a retirement community and sell his house to the corporate “big-shots” that have been salivating over his property for years waiting to move forward with a grand building project. So Carl, realizing he has finally come upon his now or never moment, does just what he had planned to do so many years ago: he (quite literally) flies away on his grand adventure.
Parents will find this tale more deeply rooted in emotion and morals than past installments from Pixar. The life lessons exemplified throughout, such as “never let life pass you by,” or “true joy is only happiness when it is shared” are a welcomed spectacle to the big-screen following the environmental bombshell dropped in WALL-E. The things Carl Fredrickson learns along his journey through character interaction and development are both heartwarming and touching, and are as real as you and I, although he himself is only light on a screen and the voice of an actor.
What else is certainly real and present is the humor, which in a film such as this is not only welcomed, but expected. Although the humor stems more so from a slapstick perspective, rather than a witty or clever one, the comedic routine displayed primarily by Russell, a tagalong boy scout who finds friendship and guardianship in Carl, as well as the various animals showcased in Paradise Falls to include talking dogs and a giant Dodo-esque bird creature, is universally entertaining and will leave most, if not all, movie goers, at the very least, chuckling. And to my surprise, not one of these jokes were sexual, offensive or questionable in any way.
To the writers’ credit, even when there are more somber moments that move away from the humor, you’ll find yourself grinning with delight in Carl and Russell’s accomplishments as I did, as the whole movie plays to what I refer to as the “deep down good feeling.” By that I mean that, even though things go wrong, and there is conflict, ultimately joy and happiness win out and leave you with a deeper feeling and a longer lasting grin than a simpler story would.
The plot itself is fairly solid throughout and is told expeditiously, which keeps the yawns of children to a minimum. There’s a short stretch in the middle where I found myself waiting for the tale to move along, but save that interlude, I found the story to be not only understandable and interesting, but quite clever in the manner it was told. Let’s be honest, everyone has read or seen the “run away” story, but this particular perspective of “floating away” added quite a bit to the overall entertainment value of the film.
The plot itself, however, is where I did find my biggest flaw. As all stories have a protagonist, in this case Carl, so do all stories have an antagonist. In this film it is an explorer named Charles Muntz, a man whose life dream it has been to capture the thought-to-be-extinct bird that lives in Paradise Falls. Muntz’s character was quite frankly underdeveloped, shallow, and, moreover, controversial. In one scene, he is portrayed as a hero and a hospitable gentleman, but quickly changes in a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde fashion into a maddened, obsessed lunatic bent on capturing the bird without regard to even human life. My complaint to the story tellers would be simply this: why did he go from 0 to 100 in the story, and why do we know so little about him? I suppose “time constraints” would be the logical answer, but, nonetheless, Muntz is surely the weak chain in the story.
He is, also, the only source of violence. Muntz orders the capturing of Carl and Russell by his vicious attack dogs, wields a gun, sets Carl’s house on fire, and even attempts to drop Russell out of his giant blimp, the “spirit of adventure.” All of this could potentially be a bit unnerving to the youngest of audiences, but it’s kept in check. As I stated earlier, however, this film found a few extra ways to seek out emotion in its audience, and one of the emotions is most definitely fear, or perhaps uncertainty to put it more mildly.
I think to truly grasp the meaning of this film, one must sit down in the possibly gum covered seat of the theater and understand that there’s more to a movie than lights and sound. Carl Fredrickson may not be a real man, but he feels what we as real people feel every day: the disappointment of life, the unexpected loss of a dream, or even the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, though, we focus so much on what we wish we could do, on what we want to change, or on the adventure we wish we could embark upon, that we miss the adventure happening all around us, because life is the greatest of all adventures, and God intends us to enjoy and learn from it every step of the way.
John 10:10—“Jesus came so we could have an abundant life.”
My advice, learn sooner than Carl did that there’s an adventure waiting around every corner; you just have to be willing to see it.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.