An old geezer, an overeager Wilderness Explorer, talking dogs, a mysterious land, and an exotic bird. I wasn’t sure how these elements were going to blend together in Pixar’s latest animated feature but my curiosity was successfully piqued. The 3-D element was also very enticing.

Turns out the plot is about Carl Frederickson (Ed Asner) and the dream he shared with his wife, Ellie, to visit the mysterious Paradise Falls. They hoped to have the same daring adventures as their childhood hero, Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Though the dashing explorer Mr. Muntz was drummed out of the scientific community on charges of fraud Carl & Ellie still regaled the man as a legend. Carl and Ellie grow up, marry and enjoy many years together but that South American trip eludes them until Ellie passes away and Carl decides to pursue that dream with encouragement from Ellie’s spirit and the contractors that want to demolish the Fredrickson home. Carl flies the house towards Paradise Cove with the goal of spending the remainder of his existence there.

But a couple of wrenches get thrown into Carl’s master plan when Wilderness Explorer Russell (Jordan Nagai) ends up accompanying him on the journey. Then Carl and Russell meet a couple of characters in the form of a loony bird and an even loonier dog named Dug (Bob Peterson) adorned with a collar that allows him to speak “humanese”. And then more stuff happens that I can’t tell you about because that would ruin the plot for you.

One day Pixar will come out with a movie that will be a stinker. But that day is not today and that stinker is not Up. I laughed. I cried. I went “Whoa!” a couple of times. This really was worth the wait and though the 3-D tech was cool the story is good enough whether stuff is popping out at you or not. There was a lot to like about this picture starting from the nostalgic newsreel footage of Charles Muntz’s celebrated career and embarrassing downfall. Then we move on to Carl and Ellie meeting as children and then we’re treated with watching them mature into husband and wife and the ups and downs of their marriage until Carl is left alone as a widower.

Well, Carl isn’t totally alone. He has the construction crew to keep him company as they dig around his house and biding their time until the old man finally relents and signs his property over to them.

So just in the first act alone I was hit with issues like urban development, marriage, expeditions, growing old, losing a spouse and unfulfilled dreams. And Pixar makes those issues relatable to children without dumbing it down so much that the effect is lost on the adults. Like the Fredrickson family montage is just a series of snapshots from their life together. Just pictures set to a piano solo and it was so moving and elegant and charming and sad and touching and simple.

But not to fret, kids.
Up isn’t all roses and chocolate heart boxes. The funny scenes you saw in the trailer are in there but rest assured that there’s plenty more witty laughs to be had in the full feature. I’m tempted to predict that the “Squirrel!” gag will be one of the popular fads of 2009. Carl does his cantankerous old coot thing with busted bones, a cane and a healthy diet of prunes. Russell will charm you. It will take awhile but he will become a lot less annoying as the story progresses. One of his best moments is when he has to do #2 in the jungle and he asks Carl how to build a proper latrine. That one is a keeper, lol.

I didn’t walk out with any disappointment about Up but I was a little surprised by some of the elements in the film. Numero uno is the sight of blood. Now, it wasn’t like rivers of the red stuff were flowing all over the place. It was very subtle and minimal but it is there. There’s also some moments in the big air battle between Carl and his Paradise Falls nemesis (who shall go un-named to protect the surprises in the plot) when sweet little Russell is thrown out of an aircraft and shot at by the enemy, too. I’m gonna assume that Pixar felt their younger audience would be able to handle the intensity level cranked up a couple of notches. And adults will certainly appreciate the weights tipping slightly more towards the mature side this time around. But, be ready to hold your kid’s hand or answer some blush-worthy questions, just in case.

Again, the 3-D version is nice. The depth perception enhancement comes in handy in those scenes where Carl’s house is sailing through the endless clouds and high peaks of the mountains. I definitely registered the vastness of the land and felt panic for any of the characters that found his or herself dangling a couple a thousand stories off of the ground. However, Up’s plot and charm are so potent that the 2-D version is just as tasty a treat (oh gosh, lol, there was a gag about “treats”, too, ha ha ha).

The warm-up toon is called Partly Cloudy; a sweet short about a stork/cloud team that is going through a rough patch. In the toon, clouds make babies (human and animal kids) and storks deliver them to the parents. One particular cloud has the task of creating the extra special babies like electric eels and alligators. The poor stork literally loses his feathers from the stress of delivering such, er, unique kids to equally unique parents. Oh yeah. This one is hilarious, too. A delicious appetizer before the main course though this might set back the efforts of parents to debunk that “babies come from storks” myth.

Pixar does it again. If you are fan of their works then prepare to be dazzled once again with fantastic storytelling, endearing characters and refreshingly witty comedy antics. Up is so worth buying a ticket for.