I know! A film for kids! And, no, I’m not drooling more than last week and I can still count my feet. The grandkids are educating me. Jacketta was a bit of a tart in her youth, I’m sure she won’t mind me saying, and has gifted me a range of grandchildren to harass for not sending thank you letters. Never really cared about thank yous until I realised they sit at the heart of Grandpa Power: the offspring use them to guilt-trip and offload their little ones into Grandpa Boot-camp, much as old Jack and Mrs Jack did back in the day, and the grandkids use them as blister-points to gain favour for next Christmas. What do I get from them? Required visits, an apologetic Jacketta and the chance to stuff the little bastards full of their favourite E-numbers and hand them back, shivering with sugar substitutes and adoration for their Gramps.
And this is how I discovered Up.
Timmy and Clarry were at my feet in the TV room, arguing as little ones do. Clarry threw the first punch like I’d taught her (hands up, elbows in, point the other way and WHAM! Fucker won’t see it coming), and her 5-year-old fist flew into her little brother’s face faster than he could move. So he got to choose the film.
And what a surprise! I’d enjoyed the Toy Story films back in the day and had been bored rigid by pretty-much everything Pixar-Disney put out since. But Up proved to be a gorgeous film about a house floating under a pile of balloons (for the kids) and a touching tale of post-widowhood transformations (for me). There was some stuff in there about stupid birds as well, but I couldn’t see for tears. Oh, to have had Mrs Jack at my side when this was on.
The first fifteen minutes are a summary of a long-lived couple’s life together. Carl (voiced so gruffily by Ed Asner that I may imitate him hereafter) and Ellie are shown through a montage with more emotional power to it – and charm – than every other film not made by Capra, Spielberg or Donat. They flash from love and dreams, to marriage, to hopes of travel, to spending the cash on everything else, to hope of kids, no kids, grey hair and – in a moment of culpability for Carl – a purchased plane ticket just as old age gets Ellie and he is left alone. It’s beautiful. If you want to see a moment where animation sails past poetry and sort-of-mime can sort-of be forgiven, this is it.
And then Carl is alone…
Old Jack was in tears, as directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson intended, and couldn’t stop as the emptiness of Carl’s life turned him grumpy, crotchety and curmudgeonly. You’ll know the subtle differences when this horror happens to you. Luckily enough for Carl, he didn’t then get hit by chronic shit-itis of the knees…
The rest of the film is for the kids. It references Carl and Ellie’s time together, mostly through musical motifs that trigger the tears again, and to drive the story: to see the place Ellie had always dreamed of going, from her big personal book of travel dreams. Hence the floating house, powered by stacks of balloons, and the new relationship in Carl’s life: boy scout Russell (Jordan Nagai), who accidentally floats off with him.
Oddly enough, Timmy and Clarry were less interested in the sweet tale of love and marriage than in the floating house and the silly time Carl and Russell have whilst bickering and adventuring with Dug, the talking dog, the stupid birds and Charles Muntz (smoothly evil Christopher Plummer), once Carl’s hero and now his nemesis… The trip to Paradise Falls is a silly one, but the foundations laid by that montage are so strong that even the last shot of the film had Timmy clambering up my lap to share the tissues. I took the opportunity to wipe the dried blood off his brow.
Adventure is out there! Up is the perfect mix of quality animation, kids entertainment, Crumbly Movie Template 3 (live on, widower!) and inter-generational family time.
Now watch the montage and sob, bitches.