“Earth” & “Up”
Two polar bear cubs get the first look at the “outside” world of
snow and ice, somewhere in
. Migrating cranes labor to fly
, and migrating whales are stalked by a great white shark.
The walrus clan circles up to protect their young ones from the
predators, as do the elephants. But
sometimes the hunters are successful, because that is the way of the wild.
“Earth” is like a big National Geographic special on the silver
screen. The panorama can only
fully be appreciated in a theater, so don’t wait to see this one on DVD.
Take your little children, take your grandmother, take anyone with an
appreciation for watching God’s own creations in their natural habitats,
with not a human in sight.
There’s not a human in sight in “Up,” either, because it’s all
animated, but this is also one of those good-for-the-whole-family kind of
films that is best enjoyed on the big screen with the 3-D glasses.
It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s charming, but it keeps from being
syrupy because the old man gets to be crotchety, and, of course, we have a
dastardly villain to overcome. Ed
Asner is the voice of Carl Fredricksen, a lonely old man who still misses his
beloved Ellie. They met as kids,
because she invited him to be a member of her adventure club, and they enjoyed
each other immediately. They
dreamed of exploring faraway lands, especially
, featured in popular newsreels, but life intervened.
They couldn’t have children, much to their sorrow, but they bought a
house together, and lived in it happily until she died.
There’s a certain sadness about him now, as he dodders into old age
alone and lonely, uncertain what to do about it.
The urban construction is all around him, and he holds out stubbornly,
in part because the house is a shrine to Ellie, and all their happy years
together. He still talks to her
as if she’s there. A little boy
named Russell (the voice of Jordan Nagai) knocks at the door in his explorer
outfit, wanting to earn his “help the elderly” merit badge, and grumpy old
Carl will have none of it. He
doesn’t need help, he just wants to be left alone.
Or so he thinks.
The whimsical part of the story is that Carl strings together a bunch
of balloons so he can float away while still in his house, and go have that
adventure he’s always wanted. What
he didn’t realize, until he was already under way, was that he had a
stowaway---Russell, who proceeds to lose his GPS tracking device.
Then the storm comes upon them, and they are blown off course, and land
in a wilderness which closely resembles the Paradise Falls of Carl’s dreams.
But it’s not as idyllic as it appears.
There’s danger there, and adventure enough for everyone, but, of
course, the real point is not the journey at all, but the relationship between
the grumpy old man and the frightened little boy, who find, in each other, the
trust and affection they both need. But
it’s not as hackneyed as all that, there’s a lot of whimsy and grace and
humor in this film, and the viewer winds up identifying with animated
characters as if they were something more than human.
In both films, the wilderness is neither as safe nor as pristine as we
usually assume it to be. In both
movies, it’s about the old of the species nurturing and protecting the
young, and the young growing up. In
both films, it’s the way of the world for the world to move on.
But it’s a wonderful world, just the same.
Questions For Discussion:
Do you think that in “nature films,” young
viewers should still see the hunter chasing---and catching---its prey?
Do you think that in animated films, young
viewers should still see the presence of evil, thwarting the intentions of the
When have you developed an unlikely
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace