I’m not a huuuuge fan of animated fare, but I have to say, Up is ALL of the things that great films are – sad, funny, timeless, heart-warming, exciting, and by the end, genuinely moving. It’s a film that’s about never letting go of your dreams, no matter how out of reach they may seem. There’s a thrilling sense of adventure and a constant sense of wonder in Up that’s positively infectious, and along with the magical and masterful Wall*E, I consider it to be at the very top of the Pixar heap. The story is simple: Karl Fredricksen, an old man still in love with his deceased wife, doesn’t want to lose his beloved house to urban development, so he tethers about 100,000 balloons to it in order to fly off to the exotic (and possibly dangerous) island where he and his wife always wanted to visit and explore. The catch – the old man has a surprise companion, in the form of a tubby Eagle Scout named Russell, who just so happened to be on his doorstep before the house took flight. Up becomes a buddy picture of sorts, with the old man learning from the little kid, and vice versa.
Visual and verbal humor is on display in almost every scene, and director Pete Docter’s elegant gift with movement, eye-popping color, and visual and narrative sweep is in clear view. Bob Petersen’s amazing voice work as Doug the Dog is the stuff of instant comedy legend, and the bright, explosive color palette of Kevin the Bird is gorgeous and eye-filling. The mostly silent wedding/marriage/life montage that opens the film is a tour de force of non-verbal storytelling and easily one of the most captivating sequences I’ve ever seen in any film, animated or live-action. I was a bleary-eyed mess while watching this touching five minute prologue during my first viewing, and every time I give the film a revisit, I’m nervously apprehensive about watching the opening in full – it hits me very, very hard. If you’ve ever loved someone, there are elements of Up that will remind you of why we do in fact love other people, and why it’s important to never forget those who are the most important in our lives.