Up (2009)

Rated: PG for some peril and action

Length: 96 min

Age: 6 and up        Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary factor: pretty high, with those snarling dogs in attack mode; dogs in planes fly into each other and plummet to the ground; dogs attacking/biting each other; villain Muntz tries to kill heroes; guns firing; many near-falls from airborn house; Muntz falls to his death, though impact not seen

Intense scenes: opening montage showing Carl’s wife in decline and then Carl in the funeral home and in mourning

Interests: action, adventure, travel, ballooning, South America, dogs

An old widower, Carl Frederickson, is about to be committed to an old age home against his will. Rather than leave his house, he decides to rig it with hundreds of helium balloons (he’s a balloon salesman) and pilot it to South America – a trip he’d always dreamed of taking with his late wife. Unfortunately a Boy Scout named Russell happens to be on his porch at liftoff and must come along on the adventure. Once they arrive at their remote destination, they discover a very rare bird, but also a famous explorer gone mad and his army of highly intelligent, speaking dogs! The conflict which ensues forces Frederickson to choose the present and future over the past.

This is a beautiful and intelligently presented story of inter-generational friendship, and the lessons of love and loss. Pixar continues its spectacular run of capital ‘I’ Intelligent movies! However it must be said that this is definitely not a movie for the very young, if only because they might be alarmed by the sight of their mom or dad sobbing during the opening montage! The movie begins with a lovely, wordless, condensed telling of a loving marriage, dreams of adventure deferred, the heartbreak of childlessness (perhaps miscarriage), the decline and death of the wife, and the sadness of the widower as he continues on alone. Yoiks! Heavy going for kids, but rather necessary to make sense of the motivations of the main character, a gruff old man with a sentimental core, deeply buried. (Voiced perfectly by Ed Asner.)

Past the tour de force opening, it’s a pretty traditional but well-handled buddy movie: Mr. Fredrickson doesn’t want the kid to come along, but as they go he becomes more fond of him. The old man also has to learn to leave the past behind and face the adventures ahead with his new little friend (whose father is largely absent). No problems there, great, complex characters handled realistically in the midst of pretty unrealistic action situations (action movie convention, of course).

The major scare factor here comes via a gang of wild, vicious dogs chasing our heroes, as well as the malevolent villain Muntz who commands them. Frederickson and Muntz have a pretty intense fight at the climax, which ends with the bad guy apparently falling to his death. This is a pretty ‘adult’ kids film, with lots of intensely emotional scenes, injury, death, mourning, and general action movie violence. DO NOT show this movie to a child who is afraid of dogs!

I can’t help but feel that Up was made more for adults, with its main theme of letting go of the past… hardly a kid-relateable issue! Besides that, I suspect that kids who love action will be bored by the backstory and sentimental stuff, and some kids who enjoy the relationship stuff will be terrified by the action scenes. Hmm.


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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