Up – It’s interesting that, at least in my own fairly insignificant experience, it seems like people only really talk about the very beginning of this movie. It makes sense, as it’s a very emotional start, but there IS a lot more after that. It starts with the young Carl Fredericksen bonding with a neighbor named Ellie over their mutual fandom for explorer Charles Muntz. In a silent montage, we see the two of them planning to follow in his footsteps and explore Paradise Falls in South America, but various things keep getting in the way. They have a happy life together, however, and grow old together before Ellie dies.
Carl then becomes a cranky old man, although to be fair, we didn’t see how he acted toward anyone other than Ellie earlier on. When he injures a construction worker he thinks is trying to wreck his mailbox, the company uses it to get Carl committed to a nursing home and destroy his house, but he reveals an ace up his sleeve: a bunch of helium balloons he’s rigged to get the house to float away. I don’t think the physics here are very accurate, but obviously they cared more about a cool visual.
I mean, we also later see a giant bird fly a bit with really proportionally small wings. It turns out he has a stowaway, a talkative and determined kid named Russell, who was under his porch because Carl sent him on a snipe hunt to get him out of his hair. Russell helps Carl steer the house to South America, and on their way to Paradise Falls, they come across the bird and a dog named Dug, whose collar is rigged up to translate his thoughts into speech.
He turns out to be from a pack of dogs hunting for the bird, all with similar collars, and working for none other than Muntz himself.
He’s somehow still vibrant and healthy despite being considerably older than Carl; there was apparently originally a mention of how he remained young by eating eggs with magical properties, but it was excised. Although initially welcoming to Carl and Russell, he turns out to have become utterly obsessed with catching the bird, to the point of killing anyone else who arrives there because he assumes they’re after her as well. The IMDb page mentions that Muntz was named after Charles Mintz, the producer who took control of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from Walt Disney. If I’d realized that beforehand, I guess I would have suspected he’d become a villain. Muntz kidnaps Russell, but Carl is able to rescue both him and the bird, whom Russell has dubbed Kevin without knowing her sex, by figuratively letting go of his old life and letting his house fall, Muntz falling to his death in the melee. Carl, Russell, and Dug return to the city in Muntz’s dirigible and remain friends after that, Carl somewhat making up for Russell’s absent father. And I guess the construction company is able to take over the lot where Carl’s house was, but it’s not important anymore.
Apparently the director regarded Muntz as what Carl would become if he hadn’t let go of the past, but I’m not sure that really came across. They had similarities, sure, but I figured one of the main differences between them was how Muntz had become willing to hurt others in his pursuit of his goal. In addition to killing other explorers, he has no problem killing a rare species simply to prove it exists, or with putting his dogs into all kinds of dangerous situations; he even mentions that several of them died when he sent them into the labyrinth where Kevin nests. Of course, the theme that living in isolation will drive you crazy is also present. Really, there were so few speaking characters once the film reached South America that I think the talking dogs were largely to ameliorate this, as well as providing a cute character in Dug whom they could merchandise. Beth pointed out the dearth of female characters as well. Obviously Ellie was significant, but she wasn’t alive throughout most of the film, and she only talked in the scenes where she was a kid. The design for the characters has them all based on simple shapes, with Carl having a square head, Russell a circular one, and Muntz a rather triangular one. Overall, I quite liked it; it was emotional and effective, and told its story in a creative way.