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'Carl's Date' Review: Sweet and Funny
The latest Pixar short accompanies 'Elemental,' now in theaters.
Now In Theaters: In 2009, Up made me cry the quickest than any movie had ever made me cry.
The first 10 minutes of the film, directed by Pete Docter, served as a prelude, telling the story of a romance between Carl and Ellie, from the time they first met until Ellie dies, in a wordless montage of moments that touched my heart. The cranky but gentle at heart Carl somewhat reminded me of my own father -- at least, the 'gentle at heart' side -- after my mother died. Carl ends up going on an unexpected adventure.
The story picks up with Carl in his late 70s, voiced by Ed Asner, then 80 years of age. This too vibed with my own life, in that I first saw Asner as cranky but gentle at heart Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. and enjoyed him later in his own spin-off show. As I widened out in my viewing habits and caught up with his earlier work, I appreciated his juicy role in El Dorado.
Ed Asner died in August 2021. Shortly thereafter, Disney Plus premiered Dug Days, a series of five short films featuring Dug, voiced by Bob Peterson, who voiced the character in the original film, which he co-wrote. Peterson created, wrote and directed the series, which remains available to stream on Disney Plus.
The five shorts are playful and silly, following the antics of Dug, with Carl appearing as a supporting character to Dug. Watching so soon after Asner died brought back a wave of melancholy memories, even though the shorts themselves are nothing but joyful fun.
Carl's Date is different, in that it returns the focus to Carl as he commits to his first date since his beloved Ellie died. Mostly, it fits easily into the mood of the series, with the emphasis on light-hearted fun, a merry melody, if you will.
Yet it also carries the emotional weight of knowing that the actor who voiced Carl died soon after recording the role. Combine that with the short's premise that the surviving spouse must decide how to spend the remainder of his life: to endeavor to form another bond, one that will surely be shorter-lived than the decades-long relationship he previously enjoyed, or to remain alone.
It's a very personal choice, of course, and everyone will make their own decisions about how to live their remaining years. Even so, it resonates beyond the slightness of the story and the silly tone. Carl's Date is well worth watching, on a big screen if you can, and is a good appetizer for Elemental, which has not fared as well as might be hoped during its initial theatrical release, perhaps because it's not based on an instantly-familiar intellectual property and doesn't feature any well-known stars in any of its voice roles.
No matter. Both Carl's Date and Elemental are good reasons to go out to a movie theater with your family and friends.