I went to Up privately hoping for a ripoff of William Pène du Bois's 1947 children's novel, The 21 Balloons. Although du Bois's illustrations surely influenced the set design of Carl's houseballoon, what I got instead was a Disney/Pixar film, through and through. Cuteness rears its ugly head in the form of cloying animals and a boy scout stowaway, Russell (Jordan Nagai). Still, Carl also has to contend with his own personal Colonel Kurtz (Christopher Plummer), and his army of boneheaded dogs.
With its delicate 3D animation and nostalgic trove of Modernist-futurist details (zeppelins, movie houses, colonial exploration) Up moves at the slower, more graceful pace of another era. Director Pete Docter shows enormous sensitivity to timing, and not just the comic variety. Like WALL-E, also co-scripted by Docter, Up is a love story. But the sense of loss and regret hanging over Carl, still mourning his beloved, feels more profound because he isn't a robot; he's a mortal. His fate, as opposed to >WALL-E's, remains inexorably our own.
Opens May 29