Up, the tenth feature film from Pixar Animation Studios, is a swashbuckling, continent-hopping adventure and an under-stated, nuanced psychodrama. It's an outlandish, wildly creative fantasy and an almost devastatingly poignant piece of realism. It's laugh-out-loud funny and try-to-hide-your-sobs moving. Like the balloons that propel its plot, Up floats seemingly effortlessly into whatever cinematic territory it pleases, gently tugging its audience along for a delightful, perspective-changing ride.
The film centers on the oddest of couples. Carl Fredricksen (voiced with gruff perfection by Ed Asner) is a 78-year-old retired balloon salesman mourning the recent loss of his wife, Ellie. Grief, age, and unfulfilled dreams have made him more than a little grumpy, and the fact that urban developers are tearing down his neighborhood (and itching to raze his beloved home) is not helping matters.
Russell (Jordan Nagai) is a portly, bespectacled 8-year-old who lives to acquire Wilderness Explorer badges but has never actually been in the wild. If he can only earn his "assist the elderly" badge, he will progress from Junior to Senior Explorer. He knocks on Carl's front door in hopes of helping him cross the street (or yard, or … anything), but Carl is in no mood to be assisted and sends the boy away badge-less.
When court officials rule Carl must move to a retirement home, he makes a bold decision. In honor of a lifelong dream he and Ellie shared to travel to a South American landmark, he ties thousands of helium balloons to his house and lifts off on a journey to "Paradise Falls." It's not until he is irrevocably on his way that he discovers young Russell on his front porch and realizes he has an unwanted travel partner.