Written by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, based on a story by Docter, Peterson and Thomas McCarthy
Directed by: Pete Docter
Starring: Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo
My Advice: See it in 3-D by all that is holy.
Carl Fredericksen (Asner) is reaching the end of his life. And the great adventure he thought his life would be turned out to be a completely different adventure, with fellow life explorer Ellie. But now that she’s gone, he’s a bit rudderless. That is until circumstances force him to A) rethink that whole original adventure thing and B) get out of town. Since he couldn’t bear to leave the home he shared with his wife, he’ll just have to take it with him…
I always talk about the fondness I have for things that work on two levels. A recent example I bring up often is the book Coraline: exciting thriller for kiddies, even more of a nailbiter for adults. A more perennial example are the Looney Tunes cartoons, which can be enjoyed by kids but were made for adults and work perfectly on both levels.
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But for adults, the film hits the big Ls: Love, Life and Loss. I don’t want to go too much into this lest I spoil the effect for you, but it’s literally like you’re watching a different film from your kid. They probably won’t catch subtle things like an empty chair and What That Means. And they probably won’t understand why you spend a good portion of the first fifteen minutes of the film with tears rolling down your face. So be warned. It’s not even the loss of a loved one–no, because that’s almost too easy. It’s coupled with how you deal with the loss of a deferred dream. Which is devastating on a completely different level.
So for kids, an adventure movie. For adults, an adventure on a whole different level. It’s…pretty goddamn amazing that it works as well as it does. And moves as well as it does.
The voices are perfect, as you might expect. Ed Asner is excellent as Carl, able to bring equal parts humor and gravity to the situation (no balloon jokes intended). Christopher Plummer is excellent as the adventurer and newcomer Jordan Nagai is excellent as Russell. Still, I find my favorite is Bob Peterson as Dug, the talking dog. He also provides the voice of Alpha, and that’s a joke in itself that I can’t reveal. But Peterson brings a dog’s thoughts to life as excellently as you might think (and Dr. Ian Dunbar, dog behaviorist, is thanked in the credits).
The 3-D aspect of the film isn’t overplayed…as I said in in talking about Bolt (and I think Dug and Rhino are cousins) you don’t get an In Your Face moment. It’s just for gorgeous, stunning depth. And when you’re dealing with South American jungle vistas then depth is good for you. Would you miss anything just seeing it in 2-D? Yeah, I seriously think you would.
Pixar continues to blow away notions of animation and it’s clear that they are working to change our notion of animation and could get us where we need to be in this country: catching up to Japan, where animation can be for all ages not just kids. The fantastic feel of this adventure owes a debt to many, but one is especially Miyazaki, who Pixar head burrito John Lasseter has expressed his admiration for on many occasions. And this is a good thing. It’s amazing to watch a particular medium come to maturity in a country–and Pixar is to be thanked for it.
Back to the film at hand: see it, if you haven’t figured that out yet. See it with somebody you like having adventures with. Or would like to.