When a studio is as consistently successful as Pixar has been, audiences almost hold their breath in anticipation of a misstep. Thankfully, we can all inhale deeply. Honored as the first animation and first 3D film to open the Cannes Film Festival, Up celebrates the elderly in much the same way The Incredibles validates those who are experiencing middle age.
Still, despite the company’s track record for family friendly fare, don’t expect this film to be suitable for all ages. Several intense scenes, including one in which a man sustains a bloody injury after being hit over the head with a cane and the portrayal of a house fire, are likely too frightening for young or sensitive viewers.
The aging hero of the story is Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner). Despite some disappointments through the years, he has lived a full and satisfying life. But the 78-year-old man still has one childhood goal to achieve—a promise he made to himself and his friend Ellie (voiced by Elie Doctor). With his house now surrounded by ever encroaching urban development, Carl uses hundreds of colorful, helium-filled balloons to lift both him and his home out of the city and propel them off on a quest to visit an exotic, foreign location.
However, while hovering high above the countryside, Carl discovers a stowaway on his front porch. Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) is an earnest but woefully inexperienced Wilderness Explorer who was hunting for snipes under the house when the building became airborne. Pleading to be let in, Russell joins the ill-humored old man on his high-flying voyage.
As with life, the fun of this film is all about the journey rather that arriving at the destination. Meeting up with a mutt named Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson) who can literally speak and a richly plumaged bird named Kevin, Carl and Russell also tangle with three imposing canines, Alpha (also voiced by Bob Peterson), Beta (voiced by Delroy Lindo) and Gamma (voiced by Jerome Ranft).
Pixar’s attention to the most miniscule of details, like dust particles wafting through an abandoned house and the thickening stubble on an old man’s face, give visual depth and reality to this 3D experience. Meanwhile, a strong storyline that is equally funny, tender, poignant and hopeful propels Up far beyond the realms of a mere children’s cartoon. The jokes are based not so much on slapstick as they are the funny realities of life, like those experienced by any parent and child on a long road trip.
Marrying fantastical premises with charming, believable characters, this aerostat adventure is a definite thumbs Up experience for everyone from older children to senior citizens.