Directed by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Starring: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
78-year-old Carl Fredricksen, a recent widower and balloon salesman, has always shared a certain fondness of adventure with his late wife, Ellie. Shortly after an altercation with a contractor that would be sure to send him away to a nursing home, Carl ties thousands upon thousands of balloons to the roof of his current residence in order to finally fulfill his and his wife’s lifelong ambition of living within the lush jungles of South America. Taking with him the memories of his beloved Ellie he holds so close to his heart, everything seems to go off without a hitch, that is until he finds out he’s not alone inside the now airborne house. In fact, it’s 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer Russell that has become an unexpected stowaway on Carl’s unconventional flying vessel, much to his dismay. What ensues is essentially a journey consisting of companionship, loyalty, and inevitable peril as the duo struggles to arrive safely at their destination.
Never have I seen a Pixar film so emotionally touching. Granted, several of their more recent releases have indeed sported some more emotionally charged framework when it comes to plot development, more specifically within last year’s WALL-E and 2003’s Finding Nemo. The only difference though here is that I cried for about the first 20 minutes of this film, with little to no feelings of shame washing so dreadfully over me. Why? Because folks, Pixar, to me at least, has proven that instead of using just breathtaking animation to put a creative spin on a borderline trite and uninteresting story, they use animation to bring terrific stories to life. This aspect of Up I feel is fantastic, and probably one of the most appealing, that is until Carl and Russell finally arrive in South America, where animals galore begin to swoop in to provide some appropriate but sometimes unnecessary comic relief.
This brings me to the characters in question and their overall involvement in the story. First, we have Dug, the talking dog who’s been neglected by the rest of his pack during their search for a mysterious bird, led by his “good and smart” master; the identity of whom becomes a very pleasant surprise as the story progresses. Voiced by Bob Peterson, Dug turns out to be pretty hilarious, especially when he’s first introduced to Carl and Russell. As the film chugs along however, his involvement seems almost forced so as to give younger audiences something to chuckle at. This, in my opinion, is somewhat annoying given how truly enjoyable the first third of the film is.
The same goes for the giant, multicolored chocolate-consuming bird, appropriately (but later inappropriately) named Kevin by young Russell. Seeing as how the bird is the target of Dug’s master’s hunt, their chemistry is excellent and Kevin’s actions are indeed hilarious in their own right. Unlike Dug, Kevin is responsible for a rather huge bump in Carl and Russell’s otherwise straightforward journey. Is it a good bump? It sure is, and it allows for a much-appreciated amount of action, peril if you will, that serves as another one of Up‘s strong suits, consisting of Carl’s impending decision to either stay the course or aid his new friends in escaping from the clutches of now crazed explorer Charles Muntz and his army of talking canines. Simply put, it all adds up to one very satisfying conclusion.
As for the voice talents provided, each character is voiced wonderfully. Ed Asner perfectly portrays the often cranky, somewhat morose Carl, delivering all of his lines in just the right way. Newcomer Jordan Nagai does a simply superb job with young Wilderness Explorer Russell, who’s just one badge shy of being promoted to “Senior” Wilderness Explorer. In fact, after seeing the film twice in theaters, I couldn’t picture anyone else with the role; he voices the character flawlessly and almost effortlessly it seems. Last, but certainly not least, we have Christopher Plummer as Charles Muntz. Seeing as how the character is very apparently slipping slowly into the clutches of senility, we expect a sort of crazed demeanor about his speech, which Plummer most definitely provides us with, allowing him to be the icing on a terrific cake already decorated with the film’s other talents.
To put it plainly, Up is terrific. It successfully combines Pixar’s storytelling genius and awesome technical prowess with some great voice acting and a fantastic sense of adventure. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it their best; WALL-E is my current favorite in their growing catalog of films, but I assure you, it’s damn close. So, if you haven’t gotten a chance to see it in theaters, please do so, but try your best to stay away from any 3D showings (my eyes are still uncrossing themselves).