3 Stars - Wholesome

Life is an adventure.  This truth is often missed because we assume that we have to go somewhere else in order to have an adventure, so we miss the truth that life itself, its chance meetings and shared loves are adventures, too.  In this animated tale “Up”, directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, we have a creative opportunity to learn the true nature of adventure, whether it happens in the most ordinary of circumstances or the most exotic locations.

The teaming of Docter (Wall-E and Monsters Inc.) and Peterson (Ratatoulle and Toy Story 2), who are experienced animators, writers and directors, allows Up to have a textured presentation that is enjoyable for children and adults alike.  Simple in format and yet perceptive in message, the film walks with Carl Fredricksen (voice by Jeremy Leary when young, and Ed Asner when older) throughout his life, from childhood to old age.  But the primary emphasis is on the adventurous spirit he shares with his beloved Ellie (voice by Elie Docter).

A chance meeting of the two as children in an old abandoned house starts an adventure that both defines Carl as a person and gives him his purpose to continue on after Ellie’s death.  It is this season after her passing in which the primary action in the film takes place, but to understand Carl and his exotic adventure that takes him “up,” one must know of his shared love for that adventure with Ellie.

Carl’s companions in his adventure include his endearing young friend Russell (voice by Jordan Nagai), his faithful dog Dug (voice by Bob Peterson) and the illusive Kevin – a South American bird as beautiful as she is big.

The villain of the film is an unjustly accused explorer named Charles Muntz (voice by Christopher Plummer).  Having become a legend for his discoveries, he is accused of being a fraud when he brings back the skeletal remains of Kevin’s ancestors.  Vowing to prove his accusers wrong, Muntz lifts his dirigible “The Spirit of Adventure” into the sky to return to the place where he had discovered the giant bird.

Known for his ability to train his faithful dogs, Muntz uses his genius to create for himself a community with his canine companions. But in the years it has taken him to attempt to clear his name and regain his fame, Muntz loses his moral footing and becomes a vicious man bent on restoring his credibility.

The creative adventure that we share with Carl and his companions is full of the decisions all of us must make in our lives.  Will we even attempt to live out our dreams?  Are our dreams as important as the fulfilling of them?  Is it necessary to keep our promises if we want to keep ourselves?  And is love the greatest adventure of all – whether with a lover or a child or even an animal?  Those are questions worthy of an answer and this film makes a valiant attempt to do so for children and adults alike.


  1. When you were a child, what dreams did you have for your life?  Have you fulfilled them?  If not, what replaced them?
  2. In some ways, Carl was driven to fulfill his and Ellie’s dream.  Do you think most adventures begin in desperate times or in ordinary times?  Why do you answer as you do?
  3. Russell’s desire for his father’s approval causes him to strive to earn every badge so that his father will be there to celebrate his achievement.  What do you think the writers were communicating when his father did not come to the ceremony?
Posted on June 1, 2011 and filed under 3 STARS, WHOLESOME.