by Rick Grant
Grade: A / Rated PG / 96 min
Pixar has created an animated film that is not only funny but has an important but subtle life lesson for kids. The story portrays an old man, 78 year old Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), who remembers his eventful life through flashback.
The scenario gently teaches youngsters that Fredicksen didn’t just land on earth as an old man, he had a long productive life with a wife he adored. And now, since his wife died, he’s alone with his memories and regrets.
The way co-director/screenwriter Bob Peterson told Fredicksen’s story is poignant and at times gently sentimental. The old man longed to go on adventures with his wife to exotic locations such as Angel Falls, but they never had the means to do it. Since Fredricksen refused to sell his house, he sits in his house alone while construction is going on all around his property. If only he could escape this prison!
Eureka, Fredicksen ties thousands of hot air balloons to his house with sails to guide it, and lifts off on his own adventure. Suddenly, he hears a knock at the door. It’s the boy scout he sent off on a wild goose chase. The kid, named Russell, is terrified to be floating high in the air, clinging to the porch rail. So, the old man begrudgingly allows him into his impromptu dirigible.
As the old man and the kid travel high in the atmosphere the two unlikely accidental tourists begin to bond. Russell is one of those kids who wants to fit in, but he’s overweight and clumsy. Here is another life lesson that teaches kids to be tolerant of other people who are different. Before Fredricksen’s ascension to the heavens, Carl had approached him to earn his merit badge for helping the elderly. Now, he has become Fredricksen’s sidekick, much to the old man’s chagrin.
Through storms and winds, the floating house finally makes it to the Angel Falls region. It’s a strange jungle with strange creatures. There they meet a talking dog fitted with a special device that allows dogs to talk. The dog is eager to please. Then a tall goofy land-locked bird joins them. And their adventures begin.
Lurking in a jungle cave is famous explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) who is desperate to find the very bird that has joined the old man and the kid. Muntz was humiliated by his peers when he brought back the bird’s skeleton. They didn’t believe the bird actually existed. So, Muntz flew to the Angel Falls region to look for the bird in his dirigible. The thing is: He has gone mad trying to prove to his colleagues the bird is real. Now he will stop at nothing to take the live bird back to the States.
The film is skillfully co-directed by Pete Docter with the Pixar animation team creating the incredibly detailed CGI characters. But Peterson’s poignant story shines as a simple parable which teaches respect for the elderly and their long lives. The boy learns to overcome his limitations and push himself beyond his limits. And finally, the old man sets out to rescue the captured bird as an unselfish act of courage.
The wonderful story adds depth to this comedic animated feature that stars an elderly man and an young boy doing amazing things together. The comedic bits are hilarious and the animals are adorable. Muntz’s villainous dogs are funny. They end up out foxed by the timid dog who joined up with Fredricksen and Russell’s most excellent adventure. To date, this is Pixar’s best film. All age groups will enjoy it.
by Rick Grant