Movies on TV….UP (BBC3)

12 Jan


This review contains tons of spoilers, so if you just here for the movie on BBC iPlayer skip to the bottom.

Animation films are tricky not just because they require a huge amount of detailed and sustained creativity but they have to appeal to two different audiences simultaneously. To the kids who want an amusing day out watching a nice colourful tale with a happy ending, and to the adults accompanying them who need to need to enjoy the film but require more nuance and subtext to keep them engaged.

The best animation films do this superbly, with UP I think it did more of the later, providing more subtext for adult viewers than it needed to particularly so in the first half.

UP is the story of Carl Fredricksen a shy boy with a love for adventure. We meet him as a child amazed by the adventures of a legendary explorer Charles F. Muntz, Muntz however has been ostracized over  what were assumed to be false claims that he had discovered a new giant bird specie.

Carl meets a young neighbourhood girl Ellie also a fan of Muntz, they become friends, promising themselves one day they will go on an adventure to South America like their hero Muntz. The film rolls forward to their eventual marriage

Here is takes a somewhat dark twist. Ellie suffers a miscarriage and it seems cannot have children of her own. Various hiccups in life meaning the money they are saving for that trip of a lifetime continually gets used up. Eventually by their old age they saved the money and Carl plans to surprise Ellie but it turns out she is sick and eventually dies. All a bit bleak, but it gets bleaker.

Carl is now an old age pensioner, a man in the last stages of life with a big unfulfilled ambition, a widower stuck in big house and with little or no contact with the outside world. Except that is for the construction folk who are tearing down the old neighbourhood to build shiny new flats and have tried in vain to persuade Carl to sell on move to a retirement home.

Carl gets into a confrontation with one of the construction workers, assaults him and is arrested and taken to court. There he is found guilty and forced to sell his house and is scheduled to move into the retirement home.

This is all in the first 20 minutes of the film, but fortunately, especially if you are a kid, it is at this point the bleakness ends and the fantasy begins.

Carl it seems had no plans to go into an retirement home and has rigged the house with thousands of helium balloons. As the staff from the retirement home come to cart him away he releases the balloons and his house is uprooted from the ground and he sets sail with a picture of his beloved wife on the adventure they had promised themselves all those years ago.

The flight presumably a metaphor for leaving all his worldly pains and problems behind, or maybe that it is never to late to chase your dreams, but a small problem pops up, Russell. Russell is a local Wilderness Explorer (read Cub Scout) who had been pestering Carl offering to ‘assist’ him as a means of he, Russell, getting his ‘Assisting the Elderly’  badge. He inadvertently gets trapped in the house and is now also bound for South America much to Carl’s consternation.

After a bumpy ride they land in South America. There come across a very exotic looking ostrich like creature and it turns out it was the creature the explorer Muntz had claimed he found but was ignored so many years back. Not only that but a much aged Muntz was in the area still trying to capture the creature aided by a pack of ‘talking dogs’.

At this point you might say a happy ending would be Muntz takes the creature and Russell back to the USA restoring his reputation and reuniting Russell with his family and Carl lives happily ever after in South America. Well as any film buff would tell you you can’t have a film without a ‘Climax’ and the ‘Denoument’  and without these UP probably would not have got its two Oscars.

So we get the ‘Climax’, Muntz’s plan to capture the animal is transformed in a ‘dastardly plot’. It turns out the bird is the mother of several cute chicks and Muntz is prepared to take the bird  (named Kevin by Russell, he didn’t know about the chicks) back dead or alive.  Karl and Russell battle Muntz in their bid to rescue Kevin. The battle in involves dog flying propeller planes, chases across vast canyons, and the use of false teeth as weapons of limited destruction. Eventually however Carl and Russell triumph.

Kevin is restored to his family, Carl finds out that for Ellie married life with him was the adventure she wanted and she hadn’t held him to the promise to move to South America, and Russell proudly got his helping the elderly badge. Denoument done!

If you are quick you can catch it on BBC’s iPlayer (available to Jan 17, 2013).

If you were not so fast, you can still enjoy the trailer :-)


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