Led by director/co-writer Pete Docter, the Pixar team have once again revealed why they are a brand you can trust for quality entertainment. Up is a wondrous film of adventure filled with compelling characters and an engaging, multifaceted story. The Blu-ray does a fantastic job bringing the experience home.
Up opens and we meet two children, Carl and Ellie. They quickly bond over a shared adventurous spirit and an admiration for explorer Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Through a montage, their life together plays out. They get married, each work at the zoo (she as a zookeeper and he as a balloon vendor), and save for a trip to Paradise Falls. We also see the hardships they endure, including the loss of a pregnancy and Ellie dying. I was caught off guard by such a realistic conveyance of a couple’s life, but the realism was refreshing for a mainstream animated film.
Jumping to present day, Carl (Ed Asner) is a typical grumpy old man and his is the last house in the neighborhood not sold to a corporation that is renovating the area. It’s his only connection to Ellie, and following up on his promise to her, he concocts a plan to get the house to Paradise Falls by flying it with the use of many colorful balloons. Carl accidentally shanghais Russell, a Wilderness Explorer who was under the porch while trying to earn his “Assisting the Elderly” merit badge.
They eventually fly the house near Paradise Falls but have to walk it around the ravine to get it in the right spot. They come across a tall, flightless, indigenous bird Russell names “Kevin” before discovering its gender, and a dog named “Dug” who has a collar that gives him the ability to speak. Dug is one of many dogs owned by Muntz, who has been searching for Kevin and other birds of his species to prove their existence for decades. Years ago, Muntz presented a skeleton and was accused of being a fraud. He’ll do anything to get the bird. Carl is indifferent and just wants to get his house to Paradise Falls. However, Russell works to protect his feathered friend against Muntz and his army of dogs. This forces Carl into choosing a course of action, one that speaks to a larger theme of choosing the past or the future.