Leave it to Pixar to tackle a story about grief and loss and turn it into a magical family film that adults will love as much as any kid. Yup, Pixar's unbroken string of hits continues with Up, which opened in regular and 3-D movie theaters this weekend.
Seen in 3-D, the lush colors and detail in the film literally pop off the screen. Thankfully, Pixar forgoes any overdone "objects flying out of the screen to scare the audience" gags, instead using the 3-D format to give the settings extra depth and richness. And there's plenty of opportunity for both with this story.
Carl Fredricksen (voiced by the perfectly cast Ed Asner) marries his lively, adventurous childhood sweetheart, Ellie, and in a moving montage, we see the life they share together over the years. Surprisingly, the montage includes both small, day-to-day moments of happiness and the losses that shape Carl's life -- an implied miscarriage and (many decades later) Ellie's death. Both of these moments are handled deftly so children understand that something sad has happened in Carl's life, but they don't get bogged down in the details.
From there, the story takes off with Carl stubbornly holding on to his home and past with Ellie against the forces of change, both good and bad. To escape, Carl inflates thousands of helium balloons to float his home up, up and away to South America, following in the footsteps of a famous adventurer he and Ellie idolized as children. The monkey wrench in this plan comes in the form of Russell, an extremely enthusiastic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer and unintentional stowaway.
The warmth, heart and humor that Pixar always manages to bring to its features and shorts shines through in the interactions between Carl, Russell and the tag-along critters that befriend them on their trek through the jungle and who stick by them as they battle a villian who bears a striking resemblance to current-day Kirk Douglas (in appearance, not voice). Once again, the Pixar shows that it pays to tell a good story first and let the rest of the movie follow. Don't miss seeing Up in theaters, and shell out extra for the 3-D experience if you can -- it's worth it.
One fun bit of trivia: Fenton's Creamery, the ice cream shop mentioned by Russell in the film and seen in the end credits, is a real place! Fenton's Creamery is located in the Piedmont area of Oakland, California; Pixar Animation Studios is located just one city over in Emeryville.