Thursday, September 17, 2009

Living Young

A string of diappointments, after the excellent Toy Story 1 and 2. American animated films, in general, are overly talky, eschewing the importance and beauty of silence. When animated films in other languages - My Neighbour Totoro, for instance - are dubbed for Stateside, extra dialogue is added into scenes originally silent. Wall-E came close to finally silencing the noise, at least in its first half. The terribly overrated Ratatouille was unbearable in its sonic assault.

But Up is a different breed altogether.

This time, Pixar has displayed incredible restraint, letting crucial scenes play out in silence, allowing gestures to do the talking. A critical plot point happens with the protagonist silently flipping through the pages of a scrapbook. A revelatory page, and a familiar gesture, and we understand the implications of it all.

But the most interesting thing about Up, is its striking irony. This is a kids' movie about what it means to be a kid, yet the lead character is a 78-year-old man. Many have taken the story to be about growing old. In part, it is, but more pertinent is that it's about staying young. It's about not losing the child in us, the child who dares to dream the impossible, like flying a house using thousands of helium-filled balloons. The child who sits on the kerb enjoying an ice-cream with his friend and playing childish games like "red and blue cars." Life is one big adventure, because that's the only way we will survive it.

With its wildly imaginative collection of a flying house, talking dogs, technicolour birds and such, it's as if Pixar has made a movie about itself.

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