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  Movie Review


By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Off we go into the wild blue yonder -- literally -- with "Up" (Disney/Pixar), the 10th collaboration of the two animation giants and another instant classic. This soaring achievement (no pun intended) is a celebration of life, at turns action-packed, poignant, sublime and very, very funny.

"Up" weaves three story lines together, each a reflection on loss and gain. At the heart of the film is Carl Fredericksen (voice of Ed Asner), a grumpy 78-year-old balloon salesman who keenly feels the absence of his beloved wife and soul mate, Ellie. A touching back story tells how they met as kids, shared a love of adventure, and always dreamed of visiting South America. Their devotion to each other, set to music, is a winning portrayal of marriage, dealing tenderly with issues rarely tackled by American animators, including the loss of a child and a spouse, and the debilitating effects of old age.

Their childhood idol is Charles F. Muntz (voice of Christopher Plummer), a daredevil explorer whose mantra "Adventure is out there!" becomes a life's purpose to Carl and Ellie. Muntz collects treasures and relics as he flies around the world in a Hindenburg-like airship. His fall from grace, when no one believes his story of an exotic 13-foot-tall bird living in the jungles of Venezuela, is a blow to the young adventurers.

Carl's modern-day counterpart is Russell (voice of Jordan Nagai), an 8-year-old "Junior Wilderness Explorer," anxious to earn his last Scouting-type badge by "assisting the elderly." He badgers Carl, now alone and under siege from developers who surround his falling-down house. Behind Russell's jabbering earnestness is a desire for attention and anxiety over the absent father figure in his life. Carl eventually warms to the boy, seeing in him his own unfulfilled dreams.

Things really do take off (again, no pun intended) when Carl, threatened with eviction, attaches hundreds of colorful balloons to his home and zooms into the clouds, steering the house (via a clothesline "sail") to the south. With Ellie smiling from a photo on the wall, Carl vows to land their house on the tabletop mountains of Venezuela. Russell is an unexpected stowaway who is consumed by the thrilling turn of events.

What ensues is entirely implausible but in every way enchanting as man and boy battle the elements (a storm sequence could frighten young ones) on their way to South America. Landing short of their destination, the aptly named Paradise Falls, they resort to practicality as explorers do, dragging the floating house on foot through the jungle.

Along the way they encounter the mythical bird of Muntz's dreams, a colorful cross between a macaw and an ostrich that loves chocolate and is christened Kevin. A cute-as-a-button dog named Dug rounds out the ragtag group; Dug "talks" by way of a sophisticated electronic collar. Dug's fellow canines, however, also equipped with collars, are not so benign.

As you may imagine, Carl and his young friend have the adventure of a lifetime, but be aware that in addition to the somber themes mentioned above, albeit delicately handled, some of the action is fairly intense, and there's little doubt that the pack of vicious dogs means business.

Still, directed and co-written by Pete Docter ("Monsters, Inc."), "Up" is in every way uplifting (no pun intended -- honest!), a surprising display of human spirit and perseverance that will have every boy and girl look with renewed admiration at the senior citizens in their midst -- and vice versa.

The film contains some serious thematic material and a few scenes of intense peril that may disturb small children. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.

- - -

McAleer is a guest reviewer for the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


Copyright (c) 2009 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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