When my son told me that he really wanted to see "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," I was relieved to hear that my wife was willing to take him and his friends while I stayed home. If I wanted a nap, I could do it there instead of in a seven dollar matinee seat. I fell asleep in the first "Madagascar," and I felt the same relief when that same crowd went off to see the third installment of the "Shrek" series. I faced a very tough choice when, just last summer, I found myself at the multiplex with my son wanting to see "Space Chimps" and my wife wanting to watch "Mamma Mia." We were already out, and the couch would not be my escape. I chose to earn husband points and skip the computer animated romp about talking chimps shot into space. It was, with apologies to Ms. Streep, a bit of a Sophie's choice, but one I made with a clear head. It was made easier because none of these animated films were made by Pixar.
I suppose it could be that I have a deep and abiding affection for the folks at Pixar due to my relative proximity to their studios. I recognize many of the streets and skylines that have found their way onto the big screen because of them. I like to think that they are making movies for their kids the same way I would make them for my own. Apparently I'm not the only one. This weekend, their tenth entry into my favorite movie contest had me laughing and crying and wishing for more. "Up" isn't just a good kids' movie, it's a good movie. Period.
Movies are supposed to take us places that we've never been, or show us the way things ought to be, or help us see things about ourselves. In a wordless montage reminiscent of the first twenty minutes of "Wall-E," the creators of "Up" tell a love story. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and they know it. What could have been a deadly dull or saccharine is as sweet and concise an exposition as any I can remember. All of that to set up an adventure about a seventy-eight-year-old man sailing in his house lifted up by hundreds of helium balloons to South America. How many movies for kids have a seventy-eight-year-old hero? A friend of mine said "'About Schmidt' on acid." A nice pitch, I thought. A day later, I think it might be just as good to call it "'Harry and Tonto' on helium." When it was all over, I was sad because I knew that I would never again see it for the first time. My son went with me. He liked it too, and neither of us fell asleep.