Pearl of Great Price in UP | FCC 31

On this episode of Finding Christ In Cinema, we release the balloons from the chimney and sail to Paradise Falls as we look for Christian themes in Disney/Pixar’s Up. Have Carl and Ellie found the Pearl of Great Price? Will they have to empty themselves to attain it? All that and more in 3…2…1!

Up and the Pearl of Great Price

In the film Up, we see two different characters who have each found their own, personal Pearl of Great Price (as it is most commonly known – more recent translations notwithstanding, as seen in the following quote). One of Jesus’s numerous short parables is that of the Pearl of Great Price, as found in Matthew 13:45-46:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it. (NET)

Ellie found her ‘Pearl of Great Price’ in the life that she led with her love, Carl. She sold all that she had – often emptying the coin jar, which we’ll address momentarily – and she was content, satisfied, fulfilled in her life and love with Carl. Her dreams of adventure to Paradise Falls paled in comparison to that life and love. This resembles Jesus giving up the glory of Heaven for his love, the Church. He came down to the mundane, the mortal, and sought and bought his beloved (remember the Song Of Solomon and the Princess Bride in FCC 07).

This is an image from the film UP that features Carl and Ellie looking reflectingly in the mirror.

Carl found his ‘Pearl of Great Price’ in following Ellie’s thanks and encouragement to “Go have a new [adventure] one.” Carl finally saw clearly what was in the heart of Ellie. It wasn’t Paradise Falls, and it wasn’t adventure: it was love, aka the greatest adventure. Specifically, it was Ellie’s sacrificing, selling everything she had – her “big dreams” – for love. Carl learns to follow in her footsteps. He sells everything he has – that is, he empties himself of what he thought was important, aka the house that he’s been carrying for the entirety of the film – for love. More precisely, it’s for the love of a young boy named Russell who needs a father or older brother, the love of a dog named Dug who wants a master, and the love of a bird named Kevin who helps and needs help along the way. For all of these things, Carl has sold everything – or given it up for nothing in return – in order to attain the overwhelming love.

As heavily as these two images exemplify Jesus’s parable, they also manifest a phrase found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians regarding how we should esteem our fellow man:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

This is an image from the film UP that features Carl, Russell, ad Dug sitting on the curb while eating ice cream.

Carl and Ellie, when they find their individual Pearls of Great Price, continually sacrifice their own livelihoods for others around them. The Paradise Falls coin jar gets broken time after time in order to cope with emergency expenses. Fast forward to Carl needing to rescue Russell from impending death but not being able to do so because the house is now too heavy to fly; Carl then proceeds to empty the house of its furniture in order to achieve the proper buoyancy. Finally, however, Carl empties himself completely of the house in order to make the saving catch.

All this emptying in order to attain the Pearl of Great Price, and all this sacrificing to spread the love. If that isn’t answering the Gospel call, we don’t know what is.

Reel News

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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