Pixar Studios takes to the skies with Up, their latest computer-animated adventure. This movie treads on some heavy grounds at times -- the journey from youth to old age is covered before the opening credits -- yet it remains tremendously fun.

Life is rough for Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner). Having grown up with, married, and outlived his childhood sweetheart Ellie, Carl never took the trip to South America that they dreamed of as little kids. Now 78, Carl has construction happening all around his house, a dreary routine, and a run-in that leads to a retirement home. So Carl does what anyone (in a cartoon) would do: He launches hundreds of balloons out of his chimney and flies his house south!

Carl isn't alone for the journey, though. Russell (Jordan Nagai), a chubby Wilderness Explorer out to earn his last badge, happened to be on Carl's porch when the journey began. When they arrive at (well, near) their destination, they're also befriended by two animals: Dug (Bob Peterson), a golden retriever whose special collar lets him talk; and a large, colorful exotic bird that Russell names Kevin.

Up needs conflict and tension, and both are supplied by Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). An explorer and childhood hero of Carl's, Charles has been in South America to clear up a scandal of his youth -- and he's quite ruthless in pursuit of this goal. His numerous talking dogs provide a scary army for him as well.

Up is done extremely beautifully. The voice talent is terrific all around, with Asner perfectly capturing the gruff, grumpy Carl and Nagai perfect as the kid whose enthusiasm knows no bounds, even as it gets him into trouble. This may be the first Pixar film to deal so directly with what it's like to grow old, but the interplay between youth and experience is handled very well.
And anyone who owns a dog -- or just likes canines -- will appreciate Dug's verbalized thoughts. The visual effects are spectacular: Some of the landscapes and heights were so well done I felt almost dizzy, this South America of adventure is colorful and exotic, Carl looks like Spencer Tracy and Russell looks like a Weeble come to life.

Some people designate animation and cartoons to kids only, but Up has plenty of humor, action, and genuine warmth for all ages. This is a really wonderful film and a great moviegoing experience.

Overall grade: A

Reviewed by James Lynch

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