Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cover of "Up (Single Disc Widescreen)"Cover of Up (Single Disc Widescreen)

2009, in theaters

You should know

You know, I still haven't seen Wall-E.

Sorry. Look, everyone knows that Pixar is basically Midas without, you know, the bit where it turns its dinner and children to gold. But seriously, everything else they touch is pure gold.
So Dan really wanted to see Up, and I'll admit, I did too, so it didn't take much convincing.

[Confidential to Dan: I still owe you that drink...]


I suppose it's not a spoiler to tell you the basic premise of the story: Carl Fredricksen, as a small child, loved watching news reels about his favorite explorer, Charles Muntz, who traveled the world with his dogs, finding rare species in the farthest reaches of unexplored continents (yes, yes, imperialism. Carl was like 6 at this point). One day he meets a little girl named Ellie who just may be a bigger fan of Muntz than Carl is... and who wants nothing more than to fix up her dilapidated "club house" and perch it atop Paradise Falls in Venezuela.
So naturally, the two of them grow up, get married, and plan on traveling the world and/or having a whole mess of kids. But real life taps out their vacation fund (a broken leg, a leaky roof) and halts their family plans (a very subtle, heart-wrenching suggestion that Ellie miscarried had me going "This is a kids' movie?!"). So the two of them find surrogate family and surrogate adventure working at the local zoo, she in the bird house and he at the balloon cart.

And just when they've finally saved up enough for Carl to buy two tickets to Venezuela... Ellie takes sick and passes away. Carl finds solace in the house that he and Ellie lovingly refurbished and furnished with photographs, keepsakes, and a sweetly aspirational shrine to Paradise Falls, and settles into a sad, but comfortable, widowerhood spent good-naturedly telling the kids to get off his lawn -- particularly overly-enthusiastic Russell, a Wilderness Explorer (think Boy Scout without the copyright and trademark issues) who wants nothing more than to help Carl across the street, earn the last merit badge needed for his promotion to "Senior Wilderness Explorer" and maybe -- just maybe -- impress his absentee dad.

Then, the city tries to buy and demolish his house so that they can build on the block. Carl is having none of that.

This may be Pixar, but it's still Disney, so we know where it's going from here, at least in terms of Carl and Russell.

Anyway, blah, blah, Carl escapes by tying an insane number of helium balloons to his house, Russell stows aboard, they meet a talking dog, you've seen the commercials. The adventure is amazing, don't get me wrong, but it's so good largely because the writers make us really care about Carl, Russell, et al. Add some hysterical dialog courtesy of the talking dogs, and a really spectacular old-man fight, and you've got what *may* be the movie of the summer.

It's early yet, I know, so let's see if anything coming up can jump the high bar.


See it
You could probably say that about most, if not all, Pixar fare, but there's a good reason for that. Just remember: cartoon or no, it's still rated PG, so be mindful before taking your youngest little ones.

The rest of the Internet

Beware of spoilers!
Comic commentary at Medium Large.
Dana Stevens at Slate gives an enthusiastically positive review.
Zach Oat at Television Without Pity has figured out the Pixar formula.
The IMDb page.
Amazing reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.
The Wikipedia page.
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