10 Movies to Watch With Your Sweetie: Up
Ed Asner: Carl Fredericksen
Christopher Plummer: Charles Muntz
Jordan Nagai: Russell
Bob Peterson: Dug
Screenplay by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter
Directed by Peter Docter and Bob Peterson
The heart of Up is its love story between the widower Carl and his soulmate Ellie. We see there courtship and marriage played out in an opening montage so beautiful and heart-wrenching, it works as a stand-alone short film. All the magic, heartache, triumph, and pain of a committed relationship is captured in a few short minutes. Yes, it is sublime and gorgeous, but it's also critical to knowing why the old man Carl takes up his quest. His life is void of purpose with Ellie. So, he sets off Paradise Falls, the place his adventurous wife had always dreamed of visiting.
The film is one of the great works of American animation, but also one of the our most unabashedly romantic movies, too. I can think of nothing more wonderful to share with your significant other on Valentine's Day than the story of someone who knows his life incomplete with his true love and needs to feel connected to her once more. Is Carl looking for closure? I think so. It is the journey of a man who has known only one love in his life and longs to experience even after she is gone.
You may scoff at the idea of watching an animated film as part of a date night. Well, I'll simply point out my wife and I saw Up on our date night when the movie opened. The theater was filled with couples, many of whom left smiling and/or crying, arm-in-arm. It does contain some expected tropes of the medium: a precocious kid (Russell, a Boy Scout who accidentally becomes a stowaway), funny animals (particularly Dug, a dog), and dastardly villain (Charles Muntz), but that's not what stays with us. In fact, the villain plotline is the only unsatisfying part of the film. I didn't need it.
The movie is gorgeous, filled with brilliant color and breathtaking animation. Muntz's airship is a triumph of design. The characters are real to us and it's refreshing to see a movie present two old men and a nerdy kid as its heroes. There is a flesh-and-blood quality to them.
But, see the movie with someone you love because the movie is about love itself. And about two old men trying to find some meaning in life when all that mattered to this is gone. Up is about lifelong commitment, romance, grief, and sharing life til the end. The poignancy of this movie is remarkable and the kind of thing that can touch two hearts sharing a life together.