The old saying goes, “In life, there is nothing certain but death and taxes.” But I believe there are a few more. Of those few, we can always be certain that if Pixar releases a movie, that movie will be incredible. (Pun intended.) My theory, of course, has been proven right (once again) with Pixar’s latest release, Up.
Up tells the (life) story of Carl Fredrickson, a 78-year-old man living alone in his house in the city. For his entire life, Carl has dreamed of following in the footsteps of his favorite explorer, Charles Muntz. He shared this dream with his wife, Ellie. But after Ellie passed away, Carl has had a bit of problem moving on. He remains alone in his house while the city develops all around him. One day, after a run-in with a construction worker outside, the city decides to move him off of his land and into a retirement community. But rather than go quietly, Carl decides to fulfill a wish that he and his wife always had: to go to South America. So he ties thousands of balloons to his house and takes off. What Carl doesn’t know is that he has a stowaway in the form of a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Once Carl and Russell land in South America, they set out to pull Carl’s house to the perfect spot. As they go, they encounter Kevin; a giant multi-colored bird, Dug; a dog who talks through a special collar, and even Carl’s hero himself; Charles Muntz.
One of the strongest elements of the film is found within the first ten or fifteen minutes. It’s the story of Carl and Ellie. Everything from how they meet as children to their courtship to their dreams of children all the way up to Ellie’s death is shown in a montage in that short amount of time. It’s just another example (WALL•E being the best) of how Pixar doesn’t even need words to tell a story. And if you can make it through this short scene without at least tearing up, you’re either emotionally strong, or emotionally absent.
Another of the story’s strong suits is the relationship between Carl and his young Wilderness Explorer companion, Russell. It goes from one of unfortunate necessity (Russell is a stowaway, after all) to a great example of how a caring adult can change the life of a young person, not to mention how a young person can change the life of an adult. Not only does Carl help fill the void left in Russell’s life by his father leaving, but Russell helps unlock Carl’s heart from storage and see what it’s like to love (and be loved) by someone else again.
All in all, Up is a movie that reminds us of the power of relationships and how we’re built to be with other people. It’s through his new relationships that Carl discovers that, just because his wife has passed, it doesn’t mean his life is over. It’s through his relationship with Russell that Carl chooses to begin a new chapter of his life, a new adventure.
Up is an incredible movie on its own. But when used as inspiration, it can be used as an incredible tool to inspire discussion about what it really means to “live.” What do Jesus’ words, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” really mean?
Not that you need my recommendation (since we’re talking about a Pixar movie here), but this is a great film. It’s a movie that you can take anyone to see, whether they’re seven or seventy.
Josh Treece is fifty years younger than Carl Fredrickson. He just met this movie and he loves it. When he’s not watching movies, he can be found ministering to teenagers.