Pros: Flawless art, story, and voice mix to make magic.
Cons: Not one blessed thing.
Up (2009) Written and Directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Carl Fredricksen: You got a "run away in terror" badge?
Carl Fredricksen: Time to earn it!
Carl Fredricksen was a little boy, and like all little boys, he thrilled to tales of brave explorers. His personal hero was the great Charles Muntz. When Muntz' expedition to Paradise Falls, Venezuela produced some amazing skeletons of giant flightless birds, the world was amazed. But when their veracity was thrown into question, Muntz returned to Venezuela, swearing to return with a live specimen, or not at all; he was never heard from again.
Carl met Elle, a fellow explorer. Together, they explored the mysteries of childhood, and as they grew older, the mysteries of the human heart. Elle was always the explorer in the lead, and Carl was happy to follow in her wake.
They explored the wonders of domestic life, buying a dilapidated old Victorian, and fixing it up. Together, they faced the good, and the bad, the fulfilling, and the tragic.
It was Elle's dream someday to visit Paradise Falls, and build a house right by its edge. They had a gallon jug for that dream, but life has a way of presenting you with flat tires, and medical bills, and the Paradise fund was occasionally scavenged for those purposes. They lived their lives together, and grew old, and in the fullness of time, Elle died. And now, our story starts.
Carl has not flourished as a widower. At 78 he is one of those grumpy little old men, set in his ways, his home an unchanging shrine to Elle. Unfortunately, the world around him has changed, and is changing ever faster. Now it is Carl versus the wheels of progress, in the form of the massive building projects that have all but swallowed his and Elle's little home.
Carl is cute, not in a chibi fuzzy sort of way, but in a human sort of way. When Russell, a local Wilderness Ranger shows up on his door, trying to earn his "Assisting the Elderly Badge", Carl sends him on a Snipe hunt.
However, when it becomes obvious that he is about to be forced out of his home, Carl turns to his old profession, Zoo Balloon Salesman, to provide a solution. When the folks from the nursing home come to take him away, he is ready, and unleashes his master plan; a gazillion balloons rising from his chimney, lifting his little house off its foundation, and Up.
Flying away from all his problems, and towards the adventure he and Elle had promised each other, Carl is somewhat taken aback by a knock at the door.
Carl Fredricksen: [Carl, with his house high in the air, opens his door to see who knocked on it. Looking around, he spots Russell and yells...] Whaa!
Russell: Hi, Mr. Fredricksen! It's me, Russell!
Carl Fredricksen: What are you doing out here, kid?
Russell: I found a snipe, and I followed it under your porch, but this snipe had a long tail, and looked more like a large mouse.
[His flag then blows away in the wind, and he gasps]
Russell: [Turns to Mr. Fredricksen] Please let me in.
Carl Fredricksen: [pause] No.
[He slams the door shut]
Carl Fredricksen: [Russell waits uncertainly for a few seconds. The door opens again] Oh, all right...
[Russell runs inside]
And so, despite his wishes, they are now two.
Venezuela is apparently at the end of the prevailing winds, and they find themselves coming down almost on target. However the high plateaus of Venezuela are mysterious places, and there, Carl and Russell encounter many strange and wonderful things; giant flightless birds, talking dogs and the redoubtable explorer, Charles Muntz.
While there are many delightful adventures along the way, the most delightful things about this movie are not the stretches and flights of fancy, but the things they got absolutely right. Carl is not a kindly old grandfather. He is a grouchy, self centered old man made cranky by age, and mourning. He is cute, not because he is short and stumpy, but because he has that same tired world weary reaction we all recognize, if not in ourselves, then in our elder loved ones.
The dogs of Muntz are perfect...alert, well trained, hierarchal, and...dogs. None is more of a dog than Dug. Who ever came up with this character has a profound understanding of dogs and people with ADD. "My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you!" "!Squirrel!"
And best of all is Russell. A chubby little Asian American kid, sublimating his loneliness over his missing father in excelling at the Wilderness Rangers, Russell is not hyper intelligent, nor savvy, nor smarter than the grownups. He is not stupid, he is just a kid. He focuses with laser like intensity on what is important to him. He is easily distracted. He gives his heart freely. Actually, he and Dug are a lot alike. Often he shapes Carl in profound ways, totally oblivious to what he is doing.
Up is rated PG. It is wonderful because it deals openly and honestly with kids without talking down or sugar coating the facts of life. Elle and Carl face a personal tragedy; Elle dies, and Muntz is crazy and willing to hurt people. Yet it is all done with a delicate hand. The action is thrilling, but never too intense for the little ones (with mommy and daddy close at hand for security.)
The art is phenomenal; we of course never expected less from Pixar. And the 3D just makes the whole thing a rollercoaster ride. If there is any movie that truly is fun for the whole family this summer, Up is it.
Edward Asner ... Carl Fredricksen (voice) (as Ed Asner)
Christopher Plummer ... Charles Muntz (voice)
Jordan Nagai ... Russell (voice)
Bob Peterson ... Dug / Alpha (voice)
Delroy Lindo ... Beta (voice)
Jerome Ranft ... Gamma (voice)