Starring the voice talent of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, and John Ratzenberger
Directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.)
Rated PG for some peril and action
Appropriate for all ages
78-year-old widower and retired balloon man Carl Fredricksen has dreamed of one thing all of his life – flying to Paradise Falls in Venezuela. When urban developers threaten to take his house away from him and put him in a retirement home, he uses his remaining balloons and helium tanks to launch his house into the sky and set out on his dream-journey to South America. Unbeknownst to Carl, though, is that a young scout named Russell has stowed away on his front porch and is now forced to travel with him on his journey.
It’s hard to know where to start the praise of this film. I think what stands out most is the originality of the story and the courage for a studio to go with it. This is the least conventional film that Pixar has ever created, and therefore the riskiest. An animated film about an old curmudgeonly man and his flying house does not sound like a hit at first thought and I seriously doubt that any other studio would have ever taken a second look at the script. Yet Pixar takes the story, nurtures it, and turns it into yet another in a string of masterpieces.
It hardly needs mentioning if you’ve seen the trailer, but the animation is absolutely breathtaking. The colors are rich and vibrant and the world around Carl is a fantasy, and yet familiar to the audience. The little touches to the story, such as the adventurer he and his wife watched as children, the dogs with collars that talk their thoughts, the elusive giant bird that befriends Carl and Russell: all of these elements and more make this film both highly enjoyable and memorable.
Pixar opens the film with a very cute short titled Partly Cloudy, about a stork that is forced to deliver dangerous baby animals, but the silent film style montage in the first act showing Carl’s life from a young man to old is one of the most beautiful and touching stories I’ve ever seen in a film. It could be an Oscar winning short all on its own. You will feel more familiar with this man in five minutes than you will with most characters in an entire film. This is what ultimately propels you into empathy with Carl’s quest.
Before you think that I watched this movie wearing rose-colored glasses (actually, the 3D glasses had more of a dark tint), I do have one negative thing to say about the it. I am very afraid of heights (being 6’7″ probably doesn’t help that) and being up in the air for so long during the film and looking down made me very queasy at times. I’m certain that the 3D effects exacerbated it, but if you have severe acrophobia, you might want to be aware of this. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the movie, but my stomach might have. A+