Webster’s online dictionary gives the noun “genius” five definitions.
They should add one more: Pixar. Twenty-two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes and three Grammys qualify the studio.
Pixar’s genius has many paths. Sometimes it’s splashy, in-your-face, reinventing of state-of-the-art effects. At other times it’s perfect writing, grand, over-the-top characters and gobs of humor. Then there’s what Pixar does better than anyone: quiet, unpretentious, basic genius.
Carl Fredricksen, voiced by veteran character actor Edward Asner, is a widower who thinks life has passed him by. Inspired by fabled explorer Charles Muntz, he and his wife Ellie dreamed of traveling to an unexplored region of South America and standing next to the dazzling Paradise Falls. Fate has different ideas and Carl and Ellie live ordinary loving lives.
All dreams of adventure died with his doting bride. Carl becomes a curmudgeon preferring to spend long days alone in his old, memory-filled home. Life, of course, goes on. The neighborhood has been replaced by high-rise, modern development and Carl is the lone holdout.
Forced by the courts to move to a “retirement” home, Carl inflates thousands of helium balloons, and floats his home to South America. There he and Russell, a young boy and accidental stowaway, encounter Muntz who Carl thought was long dead, his talking dogs and a giant bird named Kevin.
Like Carl Up is rather average. All the 3-D—and do see this in three-dimensions—does is give a little depth to the story. There’s nothing flashy about the effects. Directors and writers Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc. ) and Bob Peterson (Finding Nemo) don’t overwhelm you with visuals.
The opening sequences set up the story. A young, very quiet Carl meets ebullient Ellie. She’s blabby, he’s underwhelming. From there you are shown a 10-minute wordless series of scenes depicting their lives. It is one of the most beautiful and eloquent definitions of love ever done in an animated film.
Ellie and Carl are interesting. Their love story sticks with you and makes you want more. A run of the mill Carl and the commonplace kid going through a modest, unpretentious, straight-ahead good-guy verses bad-guy plot that winds down to an expected ending is good but all through the movie your mind keeps drifting back to that excellent 10-minute segment.
Carl and Ellie in love is so good that you don’t mind the rest of the film being so ordinary. Ordinary is the downside and the upside of Up. Its simplicity is what makes this unremarkable film so remarkable.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG for mature themes. It opens Friday, May 29 at the Carmike 12 and Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.