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Reel Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for some peril and action
Released in Theaters: May 29, 2009
Genre: Animated, Family, Action
Runtime: 96 minutes
Directed by: Pete Docter
Cast: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai

Sex/Nudity: None.

Violence/Gore: Guns are fired at characters. Menacing dogs pursue people on land and by plane (yes, you read that right), with intent to kill. A dog bites and injures a bird. A house is set on fire. The main character hits a man with his cane.

Profanity: None.

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids of all ages will appreciate the movie’s exciting action scenes, the sweet talking pup Dug and Wilderness Explorer Russell. Younger kids may not understand Carl’s back story, which is told with a wordless montage.

Will Parents Like It? Absolutely. Parents will appreciate the romantic relationship between Carl and his wife and the inspiring story of a man who pursues his dream of adventure despite his age.

Review: When I first read about UP several months ago, I wondered what Pixar was thinking. How were they going to market a movie about a crotchety grandfather to the kiddie set? Would the Disney Store at the local mall sell little stuffed Carl dolls complete with plastic canes? But after seeing the film, I now believe that the geniuses at Pixar aren’t concerned with marketing — they’re concerned with making fantastic movies. Pixar had already dipped a toe into the animated-film-for-grownups genre with WALL-E, an eco-warning that bored my kids in the first 5 minutes. But UP offers excitement, humor, romance and adventure that will appeal to adults without leaving kids in the dust.

The film starts with a very young Carl marveling at his favorite explorer, Charles Muntz, who is accused of faking his finds and heads to South America to redeem himself and discover an elusive bird he swears exists. Carl soon meets up with fellow adventurer-wannabe Ellie, and the two become inseparable. Thus begins an incredibly poignant montage of Ellie and Carl’s married life, which gives us a glimpse of the duo’s dream of visiting Paradise Falls in South America, their jobs, their loving renovation of an old home, their inability to have children and how the expenses of everyday life put an end to their travel goals. (I was bawling by the end of this montage; I looked over my 8-year-old’s head and saw my boyfriend hastily wiping away tears, too.)

When Ellie passes away, Carl slips into a depressing (and depressed) routine. He soon finds himself – and his beloved house – surrounded by new buildings, with greedy developers eager to get their hands on his property. When a builder accidentally knocks over Carl’s mailbox, Carl raps him on the head with his cane, landing him in front of a judge who banishes Carl to a nursing home. Faced with this bleak prospect, Carl (a retired balloon salesman) rigs his house with thousands of colorful helium balloons, which lifts the whole thing right off its foundation. Using a clever shower curtain sail rigged up to a rope-and-pulley steering device, Carl heads toward South America to live out his final dream. About 5 minutes into the trip, though, Carl learns he has a stowaway – Russell, a prepubescent, fatherless Wilderness Explorer desperate to earn his “helping the elderly” badge.

The two reach South America, just within walking distance of Paradise Falls, so they use the house’s garden hose to pull it to its final destination. Along the way, Russell befriends a colorful bird (which he names Kevin) and a dog (Dug) with a collar that allows him to talk — hilariously, and very dog-like. Unfortunately, the dog is the lone friendly member of a vicious pack that shows up to bring Carl and Russell to their human master, who just happens to be the shamed explorer Muntz. (Assuming that Muntz was in his 30s when the 8-year-old Carl saw him on film, he would be approximately 103 years old. Just saying …)

Turns out Kevin is the same bird Muntz has been looking for, and Carl, Russell and Dug must team up to save the bird, which happens to have a nest of babies, from the crazed adventurer. The subsequent action scenes are top-notch, and the maturation of Carl’s friendship with Russell is both smart and touching. The happy ending comes with Carl letting go of his house, stepping into a grandfatherly role for Russell and setting off on his own life adventures. Overall, the film is a beautiful blend of visual punch and superb storytelling.

We caught a 3D version of the film, and the 3D elements were impressive but not overwhelming. A warning, though: We were charged an extra $2.50 per person for the 3D experience, bringing the matinee price for two adults and two kids to a whopping $35. So, you might want to call your theater to check prices or just plan to see the 2D version.