At this point, squealing "Pixar has done it again!" is a cliché too weary for even my lazy ass to use—and worse, it's not even true. 'Cause actually, Pixar just keeps getting better. Exhibit A: The first half-hour of Up, which boasts more heartfelt emotion and subtle nuance than most films hold in their entire runtime. Exhibit B: What happens after those 30 minutes—Up keeps going, and the places it goes are nothing short of astounding.
The less one knows about Up going in, the better, but if you're gonna be like that, fine: Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner) is a grumpy ol' bastard who lives all alone in the house he used to share with his wife. When faced with the threat of being forced into a retirement home, the 78-year-old Carl does the only logical thing: He ties a billion helium balloons to his house and floats away. What he doesn't realize is that the neighborhood's overachieving Boy Scout, Russell (Jordan Nagai), has accidentally hitched a ride.
Up is a lot of things—sweet, funny, imaginative, clever, poignant—but first and foremost, it's an adventure flick, filled with weird sights and loveable characters and life-or-death thrills. Again, I'm keeping this minimal, but bottom line? By the time talking dogs are flying biplanes and Russell's hanging from a garden hose a couple thousand feet above the South American jungle, Up's rambling, freewheeling, giddily enthusiastic story has introduced some exhilarating action sequences, a parade of stunning visuals, and a surprisingly heavy set of themes. As it effortlessly swings between high-spirited comic adventure and disarmingly affecting melancholy, Up proves not only to be Pixar's most mature and touching film yet, but also—as another cliché goes—one of the best times you'll have in a movie theater this year.