PLOT: Carl Fredricksen has spent the majority of his life with a loving wife in a house the two shared. After she passes away, he finds himself alone and facing the threat of losing his beloved home. With a strange plan, he decides to revisit the couple’s fantasies of youth and miraculously lifts the house from the ground below with the help of thousands of balloons. As he floats high above the world below, he realizes he has a stowaway. This young boy scout looking to assist the elderly is inadvertently taken along for Carl’s newest adventure as they make way for South America. It is a strange and beautiful journey as the two come across talking dogs, and a old hero of Carl’s who is not exactly what he would’ve expected. UP is truly an adventure for the whole family.
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With Pixar, there is little surprise when they create something wonderful and unique. And with UP, a film consisting of a house, thousands of balloons and a dog that takes notice of squirrels, the whole story seemed like it could’ve collapsed on itself. Yet it does absolutely the opposite, so feel free to raise your expectations. Besides the obvious touches of humor and charm in the trailer, UP also has an absolutely delightful story that is rich in character and undeniably endearing. Just a warning before I continue, there are a few spoilers in the next couple of paragraphs, although they only spoil the first few minutes of the film. So if you don’t want to know about the beginning, skip ahead to the forth paragraph. When we meet Carl Fredricksen as a young boy, he is awkward and shy yet he dreams of adventure. Carl follows the career of the legendary Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer), a famed explorer who is called a fraud after failing to prove the existence of a mysterious bird.. But Carl doesn’t care what people say about Muntz, the man is his idol, and he dreams of the adventures he will take one day.
And those days come sooner than later when he finds an abandoned house where he meets another thrill seeker in the form of a young girl named Ellie (Elie Docter). Carl rarely utters a word as the tomboy Ellie shares her dreams of beautiful, distant places. And as the two become friends, they find themselves sharing a life together through happiness and darker times. Yet very little of their continued adventures stray any farther than the house the two share. This is a moving sequence that explores the very strong bond of this couple as they get married and grow old together. And the beauty of this is that much of it takes place in a charming, dialogue free, and ultimately heartbreaking montage. There is more story in the first five minutes of UP than most every other film that finds itself in the local Cineplex.
When Carl (Ed Asner) finds himself alone, in the house where he shared all his hopes and dreams with the love of his life, he is threatened by land developers to sell. And while that could’ve been the first sign of a sappy and painfully dull statement on society in the form of animation, it takes a completely different direction. It is thrilling to actually sit through a modern day film and really be surprised by where it takes you. With animation, I feel like they sometimes play it a little too safe and don’t really challenge the viewer. Not so with UP, as there is so much here that not only opens the heart, but it also expands the mind, the way a great story should. This near perfect tale is a resounding success as it explores the relationship between the older and sadder Carl who befriends a boy scout named Russell (Jordan Nagai). The two present a touching relationship that grows in a sincere manner. How refreshing to have the heroes be an old man and a weak and slightly overweight child.
When it comes to family fare, I am certain that some will find a couple of the sequences a little uncomfortable when the young ones are watching. The opening montage is enough to get nearly anybody teary-eyed. At the screening I attended, the character of “Kevin” caused some serious distress as a couple of girls questioned whether he’d be okay. But this is not terribly surprising for Pixar, or for Disney for that matter. Again, it comes down to a wonderful script by Bob Peterson and some fine directing by Peterson and Pete Docter. And yes, the animation is absolutely wonderful. It seems like it would be a difficult task to make something like this look as good as it does here. The idea of thousands of balloons lifting a house way up into the clouds, all the while trying to make the movement of the wind, rain and all the “natural’ looking effects work seamlessly would have been an immense challenge. Yet the filmmakers working at Pixar continue to succeed on so many levels, from character design to the rich landscape of South America, it is just simply stunning.
As for the 3D, I didn’t get that opportunity to see how much that would detract or add to the film itself. But after watching the 2D version, I have to say that it worked marvelously on its own without the 3D effects. I guarantee that I plan on seeing it again as I would like to see how much difference it would make, but if the film hadn’t succeeded as it did I would have little interest in viewing it again. This is one of those rare occasions that everything works so succinctly, but without this strong of a story, it wouldn’t have been nearly this exhilarating. With the magic of bringing weather effects to life and making the heroes just a little left of center, they have created another great film that will surely deliver to the young and old alike… after all, we have a whole lot to learn from each other, whether you like it or not. My rating 10/10 -- JimmyO