When my wife and I watched “Up” for the first time last night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had read some reviews and knew the critical consensus was almost universal in its praise of the movie. Still, I doubted that it could better some of my other favorite Pixar outings like “The Incredibles” or “Finding Nemo.” I could not have been more wrong. Sure it’s an animated movie and is touted as a kids movie, but it is farthest thing from a kids movie. The story is timeless, the visuals stunning, and the emotions that it produces are palpable.
The opening montage is among the most moving I have seen in any film. Through a series of images the viewer watches a young couple grow old together. We see them get married, continue to date each other during their marriage, dream of children, discover that they are unable to have children, dream of travel, and continually have life interfere with those dreams until the wife passes away. This sequence of images combined with the simple soundtrack was so effective because it showed, not a fairy tale life, but a life full of trials and heartache that the couple endured and that through it all continued to love and value each other.
The rest of the movie is about Carl (the husband) trying to fulfill the dream he and his wife had of travel and adventure and along the way he learns the value of letting go of the past and honoring the memory of his wife by befriending a young boy and becoming a father figure for him. By the end of the movie, we see Carl open a scrapbook that he thought was mostly empty because they had not been able to go on their big adventure. To his surprise, he found that Ellie had filled the scrapbook with pictures from their life together. Their life and their memories together were the real adventure and by the end of the movie Carl truly learns that.
“Up” explores many deeply emotional topics such as love, death, mourning, learning to let go, and learning how to continue living after a tragic loss. While this might go over the heads of some kids, the messages are firmly planted throughout the whole of the movie. Pixar managed to deliver one of the most profoundly pro-marriage and pro-family movies I have ever seen. When was the last time you saw a movie where a couple grew old together and still visibly loved each other even after decades of marriage? When was the last time you saw a movie where the couple stuck it out through infertility and financial struggles and still managed to be best friends? Those messages are exceedingly rare in any form of media today and exceedingly refreshing in “Up.”
Pixar succeeded in creating a film that is superior on every level. Even though the characters are animated and the story is fanciful, the emotions and life situations are real. The film draws you in from the first frame to the last and the truths it tells are timeless. This is a movie that you should own and that you should watch with your spouse. I never thought an animated movie would make me appreciate my wife even more than I already do and help remind me to cherish the moments that I have with her (even the tough things in life). Carl and Ellie show modern audiences what a marriage should look like and I am grateful that Pixar made such a wonderful movie.
On a side note, I think I will start making couples watch this movie who I do premarital counseling with. It really does make you think about what a beautiful thing marriage is and how marriages can last even through the most difficult things that life throws at it. That is a powerful message for couples preparing to step into marriage.