It turns out that Carl has an accidental stowaway, Russell, the young wilderness explorer determined to get his final merit badge. Together, Carl and Russell experience an imaginative adventure filled with humor and heart. A large colorful bird lovingly named “Kevin” and a talking dog named Dug form the small band of explorers on a quest to bring Ellie’s house to Paradise Falls. Kevin is hilarious, but Dug the Dog literally had me in tears with his earnest dog-like phrases. “I have just met you, but I love you,” is a great example of Dug’s simple mindset. I laughed more watching Up than any previous Pixar film. Sure, there are moments where the film gets a little too imaginative–thinking talking dogs flying airplanes–but those moments are few and still amusing.
Pixar’s latest carries a depth and profundity that none of its previous films have done. The romance between Carl and Ellie is wondrous and genuine. My eyes watered at Ellie’s passing, and the pathos throughout the film is arresting. Carl and Russell form an unlikely bond, sharing large dreams of adventure and a deep longing for companionship. I commented to my movie-watching companions that this is a youth ministry film: Carl and Russell share life together, and through the ups and downs they both mature, change, and become more whole than they would have been apart. The seventy year age gap means nothing; trust, friendship, and the willingness to look out for one another trumps any social boundaries. Carl looks out for Russell while Russell challenges Carl to think of others before himself.
The ongoing theme in Up is that relationships matter most. Carl and Russell happen upon an elderly Charles Muntz still searching for his rare beast. While Charles at first seems friendly, his agenda to capture his treasure soon trumps any ability to connect with fellow human beings. Charles has sacrificed relationship on the altar of accomplishment. He views adventure as exploring the jungle and capturing wild beasts at the expense of others. Carl and Russell begin to realize that the spirit of adventure is not found in faraway lands or wild escapades, but in the profound beauty of everyday interactions with people. In talking about his former closeness with a now-distant father, Russell muses that “it’s the boring stuff that I miss the most.” The near-absurdity of their adventure with talking dogs, flying houses, and evil geriatric villains is contrasted with a common friendship. There is a depth and a wonder to the ordinary, an adventure to be lived every single day with the people around us that we love. The details of everyday life–driving to work, cleaning the house, reading a book, sharing a meal–these are the moments where we are interacting with people made in the image of God. C.S. Lewis once wrote that, “there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”
The spirit of adventure is made alive in our relationships with one another. That is the message of Up. And a beautiful message it is.
IMDB Listing: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1049413/