I have long been a zealot when it comes to great movies that I think everyone should see . . . but when it comes to “Up” I become a combination of Moses, Hulk Hogan, and William Jennings Bryan. I do not hesitate to implore my friends, acquaintances, colleagues, – and even a few complete strangers – not only to see it, but to be sure that they see it while it’s still in movie theaters. (I wish I could summon this kind of passion for matters of more lasting importance.) And I think I find myself championing “Up” even more fervently after hearing that it was toppled from the #1 box office spot in its second weekend by an R-rated movie called “The Hangover.” I don’t like the sounds of that and am doing my part to make sure that “Up” is back where it belongs- at #1.
As a matter of fact, I saw it for the third time last night – and loved it every bit as much as the first two times. Past of the reason is that it’s one of those movies with a million little details that contribute to its greatness, and upon repeated viewing you notice more and more of them. And it was fun to be there not only with Kathy (seeing it for the second time) but also with our friends Bob and Val Conner, as well as another friend from church, Joleen Carlson, who were all seeing it for the first time. I have to confess that I was paying almost as much attention to them and to their thorough enjoyment of the movie as I was to the movie itself – and feeling mighty pleased with myself that I had gotten them there to see it.
Kathy will tell you from experience that on the way home from most movies, I turn into Roger Ebert and dissect what we just saw . . . and even films that I have throughly enjoyed get this kind of intense analysis and critique. (Drives her crazy.) But after “Up” I was nearly struck dumb and mostly just babbled about how much I loved it. . . and could scarcely think of a thing that I would change about it. And more than anything, as I walked out of the theater I thought to myself “the people who made this movie are amazing geniuses – and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.” How often do you walk out of a movie thinking that?
Something which galvanized me to even more feverish zeal was when Kathy showed me an on-line review of the movie which dismissed it as an awful choice for children because it’s so dark and pessimistic and with far too much attention given to death. Someone replied on the website that if you subscribe to that kind of thinking, you had better keep your children away from “Bambi,” “Old Yeller,” and “The Lion King.” From where I sit, the presence of death in the story of “Up” is one of the things which makes it such an exceptional film – and it makes me appreciate all the more that the creators of this film didn’t play it safe or subscribe to tired formula. This movie has such heart- and actually that heart is there not only in the two main characters- the crusty old man as well as the earnest young scout – but also in the well-meaning dog (“Dug”) that eventually joins them on their adventure. In fact, that’s another rather daring thing about the movie- that Dug provides plenty of laughs but also a couple of the most painful moments in the movie when he is either ostracized or physically abused by the other dogs in Paradise Falls. It took some thinking outside of the box to make such a thing happen. (It would be the same thing as having Marcellus in “The Music Man” shift from zany goofiness to vulnerable tenderness. 999 out of 1000 filmmakers never dare to take a comedy relief character and make something more out of them. But they do it with “Dug” in “Up.”)
By the way, the second of the three times I saw “Up” it was in 3-D. . . and I’m glad I did. For as visually breathtaking as this movie in regular old 2-D (and it really, truly is) it’s even more wonderful to look at with those goofy glasses on. If you get the chance to see it in 3-D I would recommend it.
And whatever you do, make sure you’re there on time so you get to see the hilarious short film that proceeds it. It’s called “Party Cloudy” and – like “Up” – it’s a marvelous mix of heart and hilarity and worth the the price of admission in and of itself.
End of Sermon.
pictured: a neat image from towards the end of “Up” as the main character watches his house float away into the distance. I took this photo of the movie screen yesterday but did my best to do so surreptitiously, so as not to distract anyone else, which is why it’s not perfectly framed or focused. But the image reinforces the fact that this is in no way an ordinary or predictable movie.