Ten minutes into Up, I was crying. I was trying to hide it, of course, despite the fact that I wasn't the only one—there was faint sniffling echoing throughout the theater. But goddamn did the goofy cartoon about balloons just throw everyone for a loop! In a few minutes of wordless montage, Carl Fredricksen—a bumbling, chubby 8-year-old we met only moments ago—grew up, then met, fell in love with, married, and lost the love of his life, Ellie (a scraggly Pippi Longstocking–like firecracker with a heart of gold).
Now, after spending 70 years with the woman of his dreams, 78-year-old Carl sits alone in the big house they built together, in the cute chairs they picked out together, and the tears won't stop running down my cheeks.
I thought this was going to be a kids' movie about talking dogs!
While Carl adjusts to living alone, he clings to Ellie's things—the soda-pop-cap pin she gave him decades ago, the bright little bird statue she'd had since she was a kid, and her Book of Adventures, a childhood scrapbook. As he thumbs through the book's pages, he thinks about how she never got to fulfill her dream of living next to a giant waterfall in South America.
So the mourning Carl, who's on the verge of being shipped off to a retirement home, does something crazy. He does something unimaginable. He does something so unrealistic and impossible that it's actually tempting to try simply because it looks so goddamn cool. He ties thousands and thousands of helium balloons to his house and floats it off the foundation, across the city, and through the sky to South America, so he can give Ellie's memory, Ellie's house, at least one good adventure before he's dead, too.
But he's not alone.
Russell, the roly-poly and clueless neighborhood Wilderness Boy (it's like a Boy Scout), was on the porch when the house took off, and now Carl's journey has turned into something completely different. Instead of being a quiet pilgrimage, Carl and his new best friend get thrown off route during a thunderstorm and wind up in a deep, unexplored jungle. There they befriend a rare, colorful bird named Kevin, who's being chased by hundreds of dogs that were trained to speak English with the help of special collars made by Carl's childhood hero, who finds Carl and company and then tries to kill them. And all this with a floating house tied to their backs!
It's as weird, fantastic, and random as Alice in Wonderland was the first time I saw it when I was a kid (who ever heard of a talking flower?!), and it's Pixar, so of course it looks fucking amazing. But even more wonderful than the highly imaginative story line is how thoughtful the film's story ultimately is. The movie's messages about love, friendship, and loyalty aren't saccharine or insincere at all, and the jokes aren't easy outs about farts. It's all very touching—beautiful, even. In fact, I cried a little at the end, too.