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May 30 2009, Published 10:02 a.m. ET

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After the earsplitting cacophony of Terminator Salvation and the bulging veins of Wolverine, Disney Pixar’s Up is a summer breeze, a welcome breath of fresh air. In this clever and touching animated pic, our heroes are a curmudgeonly 78-year-old balloon salesman and a chunky 8-year-old Asian kid. And it totally works. There hasn’t been an onscreen odd couple this charming since Midnight Cowboy. Okay, just kidding. But seriously, you’re going to love these two together.

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Within the first ten minutes of Up, you know you’re watching something special. In a lovely, wordless montage, we meet Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) and his wife Ellie and witness the ups and downs of their long and loving marriage, which sadly includes a miscarriage. We also learn that Carl and Ellie had always dreamed of traveling to South America together to meet their hero, an explorer named Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), but just never got around to it.

After Ellie dies, Carl become a recluse and refuses to move when developers try to evict him from their home. Instead of being shipped off to a nursing home, Carl attaches thousands of multi-colored balloons to their house and flies away to South America. But he has unexpected company — an earnest and rotund Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai), who desperately wants to help the elderly so he can earn his merit badge. Once the pair reaches South America, they meet talking stray dogs and a rare bird named Kevin, and learn that Muntz is not exactly worthy of being worshiped.

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Up, which can also be seen in 3D, is vibrantly colorful and stunning — from the panoramic shots of the old house floating serenely across the landscape to minute details, like Carl’s makeshift walker, which has tennis balls on the bottom for extra cushioning. However, the visuals are just a bonus. It’s really the hilarious and blossoming relationship between cranky Carl and pesky Russell, whose own dad is MIA, which makes this movie so wonderful.

There’s been buzz that kids won’t want to watch a movie where an old geezer is the action star. But Up will appeal to viewers of all ages and has plenty for both adults and children to chew on. There’s an obvious theme of letting go (hi, balloons) and respecting your elders, but also poignant messages about living your dreams, the journey of life and accomplishing the unexpected.

While Up isn’t quite in the same league as Pixar classics like Toy Story and Finding Nemo, it’s the most original and enjoyable movie of the summer blockbuster season so far. And it will definitely lift your spirits.



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