Might be a few spoilers about the film ahead. You are forewarned.
It’s actually becoming redundant to say this but here it is: Pixar does it again. What impresses me most about them is that with each new film, they seem to be stretching further the bounds of what “made-for-kids” movies are supposed to be like. Frankly, many of Pixar’s animated gems are deeper and more thought-provoking than a lot of other movies that would technically qualify for a Best Picture nomination, but they seem forever doomed to be relegated to the subcategory of Best Animated Film come Oscar time. I say, though, if the buzz around Up continues, it may finally break the barrier and give the animated genre the respect it deserves, at least with a nomination (Jon Favreau agrees with me). Then again, I thought WALL-E should have gotten that recognition last year, too.
There’s a lot you can write about Up, but I have to mention that I thought Charles Muntz was the most interesting character. He’s not my favorite nor is he the most memorable, but he might be the most complex. Here’s a man who becomes a famous explorer, inspiring people all around the world, only to have his reputation tarnished, thus setting his life on a course in which he becomes obsessed to the point of madness in order to try to restore his image. You have to think that there was a point early in Charles’ life in which the thought of exploration was a simple exercise in igniting his imagination and sense of wonder, just like it was for the young Carl and Elly when he introduced exploration to them. But as soon as he actually realizes his goals, the original sense of awe and enjoyment is replaced with the need to be famous and successful, a need that changes him to the point that he isn’t even a shadow of the man that once inspired Carl and Elly. Charles is simultaneously the one responsible for planting the seed that becomes Carl and Elly’s dream and the one that nearly destroys that dream. If Carl is supposed to remind us what happens when we are able to maintain a child-like spirit of love and adventure, then Charles makes us aware of what happens when we don’t. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a senile old man with a pack of talking dogs.
For additional reading, here’s an interesting piece about Pixar’s marketing (or lack thereof) of Russell as an Asian-American lead in the movie.
And finally, my top 3 Pixar films, since everyone loves lists.
- The Incredibles (with Finding Nemo not too far behind)
Random fact: Cars is the only Pixar film I haven’t watched. Yet.