Up: Pixar's Wonderful life

Their latest offering is part farcical, part tragic. It is a story only Pixar can make so appealing.

It is a long overdue movie from Pixar. They have conquered land, sea and space. Their latest hit—succinctly titled Up—soared into air and certainly lived up to the expectations. Although it didn’t break the milestones set by Wall-E, it reaffirms them. Wall-E is a pretty hard act to follow, but Up is 9/10, if Wall-E is 10/10.

Pixar loves to place familiar characters (superheroes, fishes, robots) in unfamiliar situation. Up is no different—it is a heartwarming story between a grandfather-figure and a little boy. However, instead of the little boy living vicariously through his older counterpart as we saw in countless movies like Princess Bride, it is the other way around: Carl Frederickson, a curmudgeonly square-figure modeled after Spencer Tracy lives vicariously through his long-dead wife, Ellie and a boy scout he inadvertently acquired.

Up probably is the least serious movie Pixar had made in a long time. Dogs that talked through collars, a man nearing his 150th year living in an isolated corner of the world and a house uprooted and lifted by balloons. I personally didn’t like some of these aspects—and a lot of people in the theatre I went to were puzzled by them—but these aspects dim in comparison to Up’s overarching themes.

With its stunning visuals or silent grandeur, Wall-E beats Up, but Wall-E’s parable on love and environmentalism loses out to Up in the profundity of message … and Up makes its message within the first ten minutes too.

A musical number that chronicles Carl and Ellie’s lives is part elegiac, part allegorical. Up is about life—life we live in the shadows of our heroes, life haunted by our memories, life constrained by our ideals, desires and cravings. Like the house Carl so uncannily carries on his back like a snail carries its humble abode, our past life—Pixar noted—is sometimes a cherished memory and sometimes a daunting burden.

One of Carl’s cherished memories that will come back to haunt him was that of his and Ellie’s hero, explorer Charles Muntz. It is comedic when we saw a similar story in The Incredibles, but in Up, it is heartrending. Carl’s stoic, taciturn but cynical features betrays little of his disappointment but we who have lived through it realize the deep ramifications behind his facade.

That is why the story of Russell, whose familial situation was never fully explained, was simultaneously intriguing and tragic. It is oft said not to judge someone without knowing them fully, but in Up, Pixar showed us how we are not only a Greek chorus in the story but also unwitting participants. It is the story of our lives—maybe it is vicariousness without empathy, but in being vicarious, we become empathic too.

Well done Pixar. I won’t be amazed if Up is It is a Wonderful Life of tomorrow.


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