Disney/Pixar, PG

by Al Topich

Disney / Pixar has taken us to the peaks of our imagination, traveling to the depths of the ocean and exploring the outer limits of space. This time around we float to a lost world located in South America, traveling in a house attached to thousands of helium filled balloons.

Last year brought us WALL-E which was the best Disney movie that I have ever seen, and after seeing the trailer for Disney's Up I must say I was a little disappointed. I had my reservations about seeing the film especially since it was coming out in 3-D.

I'm not eating my words, but Up gives WALL-E a run for its money for being one of the best animated features of all time. The flick is full of everything that I adore: fully developed characters who we care about, a well structured plot filled to the brim with comedy as well as drama, gorgeous animation that is highly defined and a palette full of colors.

One thing that I couldn't get out of my head is the uncanny resemblance of the main character, Carl Fredricksen, and Spencer Tracy. Everything down to his subtle grumpiness from films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Even the voice acting by Ed Asner resembles Tracy's old raspy, yet educated speech patterns. In fact, two of the three main characters are of old age, which is odd in this youth-centric culture of ours.

But not everything is geriatric in the film. The opening scene is of a young Carl in a theater watching a news reel of a famous explorer, Charles Muntz, who vows to capture a strange creature that lives in the lost land of Paradise Falls. Young Carl then acts out Muntz's expeditions on the way home as he bumps into a girl, Ellie, who shares the same passion for exploring. They cross their hearts vowing to go to Paradise Falls one day.

The pair grows old with each other, gets married and fixes up their dream house. Fredricksen gets a job as a balloon vender and the couple starts a penny jar saving up for their trip to South America. But as in most cases, life gets in the way from reaching their destination.

Ellie soon passes away and Carl recedes into their house becoming a recluse, devastated by his wife's death. The world around him changes; he stops selling balloons and does nothing but sit on his porch waiting for the mail to arrive while a giant city is being built around his house. One day while the nursing home is coming to take him away he unleashes thousands of colorful balloons that rip the house from its foundation and carries it off into the open skies.

Carl is on his way to Paradise Falls when he hears an importunate knock on his door. A cub scout named Russell is wanting to assist the elderly to get a badge, but accidentally gets stowed away on the magnificent flying machine. Russ is an annoyance and asks too many questions. He is so exasperating that Carl has to shut off his hearing aid.

Russell's character could have been watered down terribly, but he has objectives and emotions as deep as Carl. He doesn't just want the Assist the Elderly badge, but he has an ulterior motive that is touching. His wilderness scout training comes in handy in the mountains of Venezuela. But Russell's innocence helps Carl find his long lost heart.

In Paradise Falls they are tracked down by colorful birds, talking dogs, and even explorer extraordinaire Charles Muntz. Here the film gets a tad too action-ey. So much so that there is a giant zeppelin dogfight at the end. Muntz turns into the villain of the film, but it is justified since Russell is trying to keep a giant beast safe away from Muntz's hands. Fredricksen and Muntz do battle toward the end of the film. They are not fighting for tangible rewards but fighting for meaning in their lives. 4 stars.

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