Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Talk to the Animals

“He learned to communicate with birds and discovered that their conversation was fantastically boring. It was all to do with wind speed, wingspans, power-to-weight ratios and a fair bit about berries.” (Douglas Adams)
It is always dangerous to send me out shopping, because you never know what I’m going to come home with. This weekend it was a DVD of Up, the latest Pixar film. I make no apologies for this, as it was an excellent film – as, indeed, all of Pixar’s films are. I know this may cause the revocation of my Man Card, but you can keep your military-techno-big-things-go-boom movies. You can also keep the chick flicks, as they are no better. I’ll stick with Pixar. Two of the best movies I’ve seen are Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles, and Up is right up there.

The montage at the beginning, as the main character and his wife get older, is just heartbreaking. You don’t find stuff like that in most movies aimed at kids, and it’s good to have it there. We are way too fixated on being happy HAPPY HAPPY all the freaking time in this country, not that it seems to actually make us happy, and we need to remind ourselves that sometimes the lasting moments – even the ones we later treasure – are often bittersweet.

Plus, how can you not love the dogs?

For all the technical wizardry that went into that movie and all the story lines that it contained, the thing that made me laugh was the idea of a dog collar that would translate whatever the dog was thinking so that we could hear it and understand it.

It turns out that dogs are about as bright as we’d thought.


This only reinforces the lesson of the criminally underrated movie, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, that Lauren and I went to see down at Not Bad President Elementary last month. As with Up, one of the things that the movie invents is a collar that allows an animal – in this case a monkey named Steve – to broadcast his thoughts. These thoughts, in their entirety, consist of “STEEEEEEVE!” and “Hungry!” in random order.

There is a reason why they didn't try this with cats. If you could read a cat's mind, you'd get one of two things - either endless static or frighteningly specific plans for world conquest - and neither of those is really something you want to hear. Never ask a question that you really don't want to know the answer to.

The thing I most loved about the communication collars in those movies, though, is the fact that they work but they don't really do what their inventors wanted them to do. The mere fact of achievement doesn't necessarily mean that you've achieved anything, and this is a lesson we forget. The world does not have to conform to our desires. You can't find it if it isn't there. Reality trumps ideology. And beware of what you wish for, because you just might get it.



Kathleen Rehder said...

I was trying to keep my sobbing quiet in the theater during that montage in Up as they grow old. It was difficult to explain to the kids why I wasn't crying because I was sad, exactly, or happy, exactly....I think bittersweet is a very good way to put it, but maybe beyond the comprehension of the 4 year old.

KimK said...

Same here, Kathleen. Sniff.

Tria said...

STEEEEEEEEVE! J.P.* brodcasts that daily.

*a hilarous kid in my class

tellthestories said...

I was crying during that part of Up, and munchkin actually reached over and put her hand on my knee.

Unknown said...

I'll have to see Up next month when I'm with the little people (aka nephews and nieces)
I'll finally ask.... Who is the not so bad president?