Plot: Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), and his wife Ellie always dreamed of becoming explorers, like their idol Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer). As it often does, life got in the way, and the two were never able to fulfill their dreams. When Ellie passes away, a devastated Carl is left to fend for himself against a world that seems to have no use for him. After a greedy land- developer tries to have him carted off to a retirement community, in order to steal his land, Carl decides to once and for all, fulfill his life long dream of exploring South America. With the help of 10,000 helium filled balloons, Carl is able to make his house into his own personal blimp, and soon takes to the skies. However, Carl has an unwanted passenger- a hyper-active, eight-year old “Wilderness Explorer” named Russell, who is intent on earning his “assisting the elderly” merit badge. The two eventually land in Paradise Falls- located deep in the Venezuelan jungle, where they meet among other things, a talking dog named Doug, and the now elderly, and unhinged, Muntz.
Review: Pixar’s done it again. Since TOY STORY in 1995, the studio’s knocked it out of the park again and again, and this- their tenth film, is yet another masterpiece. Their last movie, WALL-E, was an incredible change of pace- hurtling the company into a slightly more cerebral, sci-fi zone. While UP is far more conventional than WALL-E, it’s nonetheless a stunning achievement for the studio.
One of the things that most moved me about WALL-E, was the fact that despite all of its eye candy and sci-fi trappings, it was essentially a love story, and an incredibly sweet one at that. The same can be said about UP, as the film is anchored by Carl’s everlasting love for his dead wife. This is really driven home by a bittersweet montage early in the film, which gives us a glimpse of their ideal marriage. Their life together, despite containing its share of sadness and broken dreams, is the kind of life we all dream of- and by the time the montage reaches it’s inevitable conclusion, don’t be surprised if you’re choking back a few tears.
Don’t worry though, UP is not simply a tear-jerker. If WALL-E was Pixar’s version of a sci-fi film, this is their attempt at making an INDIANA JONES/ KING KONG style- jungle adventure film, with a Carl making an unlikely (and characteristically reluctant) hero. I don’t want to tread too heavily into spoiler territory here, but suffice to say, once Carl and Russell meet up with the swashbuckling Muntz (voiced by an ingeniously cast Christopher Plummer), he turns out to be not quite the hero Carl imagined he’d be (any coincidence Muntz rhymes with Kurtz?).
I absolutely loved every moment of this film. Everything about it is top notch- from the voice casting (no one does curmudgeonly like Lou Grant errr… Ed Asner), to the music (a very John Barry- circa SOMEWHERE IN TIME/ OUT OF AFRICA score by Michael Giacchino), to the breathtaking animation. Still, the best thing about this movie is the story and characters, which drew me into the film so deeply, that I truly forgot at times that I was watching an animated film- not because of the animation being so good, but more due to the fact that I connected so deeply to the characters. Heck, even the talking dog was a fully formed character with a complete, and nuanced arc. I was truly close to tears several times during the film, and I assure you, I’m not one easily moved by this kind of thing. Still, just like WALL-E, and many other Pixar films, this cast a spell over me, hitting all the right notes, and reminding me once again, why I love films so much in the first place.
Note: I saw this film in 3D, as this is one of the few times in which I’d actually recommend checking out the 2D version as opposed to the 3D, as the gimmick really didn’t add anything to the film. Some of the effects are nice, but ultimately, I think it would be easier to get swept up in the film by checking out a good DLP print instead.