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Sporting the chin of Spencer Tracey and the irascible attitude of Lou Grant, 78 year old Carl Fredricksen is the last of the old-timers. His family home has been hemmed-in by contractors eyeing off his land but he refuses to sell. In a touching montage that has more story-telling power than most feature length movies, we learn how Carl wound up here in his twilight years, still nursing the ambition he shared with his late wife to move to South America. Then, one day, he ties a bag load of balloons to his house and does exactly that – flies south beyond Mexico way. What he doesn't plan on is young Russell, an earnest scout and reluctant stowaway who finds himself stuck on the porch pleading with the grumpy old man to let him in.

So begins one of Pixar's finest films, itself no minor achievement given the lofty heights enjoyed by the animation company behind Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Up is a text-book example of what they do best – heartfelt narratives driven by irresistible characters and eye-popping graphics neatly wrapped up in a buoyant sense of absurdist humour. In short, you can't take your eyes off it. So when Carl and Russell encounter a screwy bird, talking dogs and a borderline lunatic explorer, you know you're in good hands. You also know that any morality lessons will flow organically from within, which they do with just the right touch of pathos.

Like last years formidable Wall:E (co-written by Up's co-writer/director Pete Docter), Up transcends the genre to create formidable entertainment. As Carl learns to let go, and relearn the power of optimism, Russell earns another badge on the road to self determination. All of which sounds much heavier than a film about balloons ought to be. Think of them as the meaty treats Pixar pokes into colourful corners. Up front Up is a soaring whimsy with inspiration and humour floating its ample heart. It may not always be clear why it's so funny, but funny it is. For young and old, this is lining up as the years most enchanting movie experiences.

moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks