The first thing I noticed about it was that it was very beautifully done. The quality of the animation was wonderful. At times when the main character, Carl, was in his home, there was a sense of watching an old movie reel, with the flicker and glow that only an aged film can give. It evoked an unexpected emotion of familiarity and attachment, even longing.
And one of the coolest animation scenes I've ever seen was seeing the big bunch of colorful balloons against the bright blue sky. They did a great job with things such as the opacity of the balloons, the distortion of the color of overlapping balloons, etc. It was just cool, and more than once I felt the urge to gather up a big - make that enormous - bunch of balloons and float up to the clouds.
There were some very funny parts. In fact, it has been a while since I've laughed out loud at a movie as much as I did at this one. Maybe it's just because of where I am in life, and that I can appreciate the humor that the little boy's character brings to the movie. Maybe. Whatever the reason, I completely enjoyed a good belly laugh - more than once. Love that!
I think, though, the most unexpected element of the movie for me, though, was the emotions it pulled out. I felt the longing and the pain of the main character. I felt how weighed down he felt and how bitter he had become holding onto the past and to old dreams that had never been fulfilled. I felt the effort and the struggle he went through so as not to leave behind any of his past - he went through such pains to haul it all along with him. And I felt the heartbreak as he discovered a closing chapter of an old adventure book, and the possibility of all that could be written in a new book.
There were so many wonderful life lessons I hope my children were able to even remotely glimpse from watching this movie. Some of them, I've already touched on - not being paralyzed by your past, unable to move forward because you are unwilling to let go. Not being so rigid and set on one given idea that you fail to see the possibilities in altering the plan or taking a different route. The amazing potential in unexpected, unplanned, and even unwanted relationships. That life is an adventure, in both the major things and the little things, and that both the big and the small shape our experiences. That sometimes chapters come to a close, but life continues, and new chapters are written. And the fact that some of the greatest blessings and accomplishments come when we stop focusing on ourselves and look toward helping others.
It was a fun day with the kids, yes. But that movie really impacted me like few movies have. It made me think, and keep thinking, about life and the things that are really important, what is really worth dragging around and what is just extra baggage. If you haven't seen it, do. If nothing else, it's a light-hearted, feel-good hour and a half of your time. But I have a feeling, if you look, you may find more in it than you were expecting.