I’m unsure if Pixar’s films are really subversive or if it is just me – but I am increasingly pretty sure that it isn’t me. For example, WALL-E really only had one interpretation, it is all about the robot overlords.
Then I watched up ‘Up’ and seemed even more subversive! The film follows Carl as he follows his childhood sense of adventure, finds the love of his life, she loses their baby, she then dies, he is alone and then his house is in the middle of a building site.
Which would be bad enough but he then accidentally assults one of the builders and the legal system comdems him to a retirement home. Looking to escape this hell Carl ties lots and lots of helium balloons to his house and floats it off the foundations.
(‘Up’ film poster)
The film floats the idea that the house is floated due to Carl’s desire to keep a promise to his dead wife that their house will one day be located on the top of a cliff overlooking Paradise Falls – this location being one that famous explorer Charles Muntz made notorious as it ruined his career years about 70 years previously when Carl was a child.
Carl’s floating house has a hitchhiker – a rather naive and overly trusting but well intentioned Wilderness Explorer called Russell, Russell is after his final merit badge which would make him a Senior Wilderness Explorer. I rather liked Russell and his endless stash of candy, it was also very neat that he was Asian-American.
Somehow the pair stay safely in the floating house despite a thunderstorm and land near Paradise Falls – but not in the exact spot that Carl’s dead wife had picked out, so Carl and Russell start walking the still partly-floating house to the correct location.
(Dug in a still from the film)
They find a large multi-coloured bird which likes chocolate who Russell names Kevin, a number of dogs who wear collars that allow them to speak and a remarkably young-looking Charles Muntz with a worryingly good condition dirigible. Unfortunately Charles is completely insane and seems to want to kill anyone who threatens to take Kevin away from him. There may be spoilers from this point on.
Russell gets upset when Carl tries to save his house rather than Kevin – given the house is on fire and Kevin a) isn’t on fire and b) is sort of irritating I can sort of see where Carl is coming from.
(Photo from The Guardian)
Carl has an epiphany when looking at his dead wife’s scrapbook, so decides to rescue the stupid bird by trashing his house to the extent that the depleted balloons can get more lift.
The friendliest dog (Dug) becomes the new leader of the pack so controls them, Kevin gets rescued, Charles plummets to his death, the house loses all occupants and descends through the clouds to land in the perfect spot. Russell gets his final badge and Carl seemingly escapes kidnapping charges.
So it all should be a somewhat surreal happy ending, but I have a curious feeling that the film is a hallucination by a dying Carl who collapsed at the stress of being forced into a retirement home. I mean he fulfilled the promise to his wife, had interactions with a child who could be an avatar for the one that they lost, met his childhood hero and saved the day – this all screams wish fulfilment to a degree that few people manage to obtain so neatly in their lifetime.
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