Plot summary (with possible spoilers): The film opens with young Carl Fredericksen (voiced by Jeremy Leary) watching newsreel footage about the latest conquests of explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Carl wants to be like Charles when he grows up and have lots of great adventures in far-flung places. On the way home, Carl hears a voice coming from an abandoned house. He goes in and is surprised to find Ellie (Elie Docter), a girl of about the same age who is just as excited about Charles Muntz as he is. The two form a club, vow to see Paradise Falls when they get older (just like Charles) and become fast friends. Later, they marry.
Viewers then get a montage showing an older Carl (now voiced by Ed Asner) and Ellie going through various stages in their marriage. They start saving up for their dream trip to Paradise Falls, but “real life” gets in the way. They have to pay for house and car repairs, medical bills, and all kinds of other expenses. Eventually, they realize that they’ve gotten old and never had a chance to live out their dream. Ellie dies, leaving Carl little more than a grumpy old man. He finally decides to go to Paradies Falls — by tying thousands of helium balloons to his house and floating there. This one’s for Ellie.
What Carl didn’t count on was the stowaway who tagged along. This is Russell (Jordan Nagai), a Wilderness Explorer trying to earn a merit badge for “assisting the elderly”. Carl tried to get rid of him by sending him on a fool’s errand, but Russell (unbeknownst to Carl) stuck around on the porch. So now the two of them head off to South America together.
A storm forces the two to land some distance away from the falls, meaning they have to walk the rest of the way while dragging Carl’s house along with them. On their journey, they come across a huge tropical bird who seems to want to tag along in order to get more of Russell’s chocolate. Russell names the bird Kevin — and keeps calling it that even when he later learns that the bird is female. The two also hook up with a dog named Dug (Bob Peterson), who can talk with the help of a translation collar.
The trek to the falls takes considerably longer than expected, particularly when they encounter a dangerous enemy intent on trapping and killing Kevin. But things eventually work out, and Carl gets to keep his childhood promise to Ellie in the end. And he also gets a new friend in Russell as well.
My Reaction: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this film. I had read so many rave reviews about it that I thought it couldn’t possibly be as good as the critics said. But surprisingly enough, it was! I found that I really enjoyed the story and wasn’t bothered by the little nitpick-y details that usually end up bugging me.
My favorite part of the entire film happened right at the beginning. I absolutely loved that superb montage showing Carl and Ellie’s life together! The filmmakers so perfectly captured the essence of their relationship, without a single word of dialogue. It was amazing — and I even had tears in my eyes when Ellie died. All from a montage featuring characters that I had known for all of 10 minutes! That’s fantastic storytelling!
Another thing I liked about Up was the fact that Russell was allowed to be a regular kid. I think Roger Ebert pointed this out in his review, but it’s worth repeating. I’m so sick of movies that show kids being 100x smarter than adults, when that’s hardly ever the case in the real world. In Up, Russell wasn’t a brainiac, nor was he an idiot. He was a regular kid with normal intelligence and normal childlike impulses. This was totally refreshing to see!
The film wasn’t perfect, of course. For instance, I thought the Muntz stuff with all the talking dogs was just plain weird. I mean, I know there had to be a bad guy, but that situation was odd. Fortunately, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the movie as a whole.
Overall, I thought Up was one of the best Pixar films to date. It will appeal to both children and adults, and is simply a wonderful story. I give it 4 stars out of 5.