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Fri May 15, 2009
A Summer Upper
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"The thirst for adventure is the vent which Destiny offers; a war, a crusade, a gold mine, a new country, speak to the imagination and offer swing and play to the confined powers." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let's play a little game: What's the common denominator of these Pixar films?
A Bugs Life
Toy Story 2
You're right! Animated characters with humanity, soul, and individuality. Did you think Pixar would lose its touch with Up? Of course not. It will rank with the list above as one of its best. But then, all the above are Pixar's best.
Seventy-eight year old Carl Fredricksen (voice of Ed Asner) has lost his wife and his reason to enjoy life. Enter eight year old Russell (Jordan Nagai), a stowaway on Carl's flying house as they float with thousands of balloons to South America to fulfill Carl's commitment to his dead wife to find adventure.
Enter Pixar's expertise at fashioning character out of animation: Carl's expressions are so true to an old man's disappointments and lost dreams that the animation medium is benignly lost to the humanity. Enter Carl's traveling buddy, Russell, a pudgy scout with uncertain Asian influences in his genes, who earns the equivalent of a Boy Scout badge by helping Carl travel to a remote falls in South America to fulfill the dream of his deceased wife to live there.
Besides the 3-D loving color and careening objects, directors Peter Docter and Bob Petersen explore the universal need for meaning in life beyond the accumulation of things and the old man/young man dynamic without maudlin musings. Add another old man to the mix, explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), who simply means for Pixar another chance to consider the need of old men to find final meaning, a philosophical closure, in their descending lives.
Up is a summer upper. It will keep you from being down and suffering my paltry puns.
John DeSando teaches film appreciation at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com