Modern Heat author Heidi Rice takes a teary-eyed looked at the sweet wonder of Disney/Pixar's new animated family classic Up... And discovers a heart-warming romance in the most unexpected place.
Okay, so animated movies aren't the usual pick for the Must-Watch Friday Film slot... Probably because of the distinct lack of male beefcake in most cartoon movies (shallow? moi?), but after going to see Up at our nearest IMAX cinema in awe-inspiring 3-D, I simply couldn't resist blogging on it, and knew that lovers of category romance would totally get why. Because this film has one of the sweetest, most beautifully drawn romances as its driving force, and the story itself is so perfectly crafted it reminded me of a great category romance - where a huge amount of emotion and intensity, and love, laughter and tears, is packed into a small format.
First off, I consider Pixar's films to be the best family entertainment around. And not just for the obvious reason — all that fabulous computer animation — but because Pixar, unlike a host of other animation studios, spend literally years crafting their scripts before they ever get the drawing boards out. And all that time and effort shows in every one of their films: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monster's Inc, Finding Nemo, WALL.E. Each start with a brilliant premise and then make sure that every single scene, every single line counts towards telling the perfect story. And most importantly of all, they always allow their stories to be driven by characters and not gimmicks (or marketing opportunities).
This is traditional storytelling talent with eye-popping ultra-modern computer animation to seal the deal. And I love it. And so do my kids. Even the bolshy teenage one!
So, the premise in Up is as brilliant as all their others. A cantankerous old widower and an eager young boy scout end up on a voyage of discovery to a far off land by virtue of a flying house - held aloft by thousands of colourful balloons. How these two beautifully realised characters eventually become friends, crossing the generational gap and filling up the empty spaces in each other's lives, is the essence of this tale, but it's dressed up with a series of imaginative ideas that will delight both kids and parents and even grandparents in the telling. There's the talking dogs ("My name is Dug, I have just met you and I love you."), the edge-of-your-seat battle atop a zeppelin-style blimp, the climatic fight scene between two pensioners, but best of all for me is the film's opening gambit.... Which is where the romance angle comes in.
Because you see, at the start of the movie, Carl (expertly voiced by veteran star Ed Asner) isn't a cantankerous, embittered and desperately lonely old pensioner ensconced in a rickety old house that is about to be demolished by developers, he's a cute, shy little boy with a passion for adventure who meets a live-wire little girl call Ellie on his way home from the movie theatre where he's been watching the latest exploits of his hero, wilderness explorer Charles Muntz. Turns out Ellie has the same spirit of adventure that Carl does, although she talks a lot more. After that first delightful childhood encounter, we get a montage in snapshots of Carl and Ellie's life, from their first kiss, to their wedding, to the years they spent doing up the derelict house that became their home, to their sadness over not being able to have children, to their companionship of their advancing years, until finally Ellie dies. Leaving Carl all alone with nothing but his memories, their old house and the scrapbook Ellie gave him as a child, which was supposed to contain all the worldwide travels they'd planned to go on but never did.
Now I'm not ashamed to say that at this point in the movie (approximately fifteen minutes in) I was already blubbing, but what's more surprising is that both my boys and my husband also had a suspicious sheen in their eyes. Ellie had become a real person, she was the love of Carl's life and suddenly this guy had a history that explained all his grumpiness and showed us the desperately lonely soul beneath. Carl rescues his house with the defiantly loopy idea of stringing thousands of balloons to it and flying it to the deepest, darkest recesses of South America to finally see the place he and Ellie had often dreamed of going. But what he hadn't counted on was having a stowaway on board. Eager little boy scout Russell is hoping to get his 'helping the elderly' badge — so his absentee father with come to the badge-giving ceremony — and just happens to be on Carl's porch when the house lifts off. What neither Russell or Carl realise is that they will be each other's salvation, how they get there is something you'll have to see for yourself. Suffice it to say, their story is heart-warming, uproariously funny, edge-of-your-seat exciting, always true to its characters and almost unbearably poignant at times.
And eventually leads us to that life-affirming, and wonderfully romantic moment when Carl finally opens Ellie's scrapbook and discovers that it's not a load of blank pages as he had believed, it's full of mementoes and pictures from all those smaller but just as important adventures they shared during their life together. And Ellie's message to Carl... "Thanks for the adventure. Now go have one of your own."
See, now I'm blubbing again! I can't recommend this movie highly enough. For people of all ages. It's quite simply got everything.
Warm and fuzzy rating: 11 out of 10!!
Heidi's currently hard at work on her latest Modern Heat novel. Her November release Public Affair, Secretly Expecting is out in the UK. About bad boy Irish movie star Mac Brody and shy London dress shop manager Juno Delamare, it's got glamour, excitement, lots of sexy, sassy dialogue and enough heat for the coldest winter. And the first of her Brody Brothers duo, Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal, about property tycoon Connor, Juno's best mate Daisy and their luxury fortnight in New York is still available in the US. Heidi loves to talk to readers. Contact her through her website or on her blog.