2009 Certificate: u

Synopsis

This tremendous tale of an old man realising his life's dream courtesy of a clapboard house hoisted into the air by helium balloons could be Pixar's finest moment. Ed Asner voices the old grouch who reluctantly finds himself teaming up with a chirpy wilderness scout as they venture deep into the South American jungle. Awe-inspiring computer animation is more than matched by rich characterisation and a surreal plot that proves wrenchingly poignant and heart-stoppingly exciting. And - ta-da! - another Best Animated Feature Oscar for Pixar's mantelpiece.

Directors

  • Pete Docter

  • Bob Peterson

Cast

  • Edward Asner

  • Christopher Plummer

  • Jordan Nagai

  • John Ratzenberger

Review

Uplifting, upstaging and uproarious, this beautifully crafted animated adventure is buoyed up to the heavens by a heart-gladdening story of genuine warmth and poignancy.

Dodging dull formula and stubbornly refusing to kowtow to conformity, the unlikely lead character is a grumpy 78-year-old who lives alone on the memories of a wonderful marriage.

Lazily, you assume that all Carl Fredricksen (sublimely voiced by Ed Asner) is is a grouchy stay-at-home ex-balloon salesman unhappily living out his life in a run-down house under the rapacious eye of property developers.

Then, one day, he literally takes off. Tethered to thousands of helium balloons, his ramshackle clapboard home soars above the skycrapers and sets a course for South America - the exotic destination he and his late wife and dreamed of visiting as newly-weds.

Unfortunately, he doesn't realise he's got a stowaway aboard - Russell, a chubby wilderness scout, who attaches himself to the abrasive old codger like the son he never had.

Pixar have fostered a reputation for the winningly surreal in everything from Wall.E to Ratatouille but this Fitzcarraldo-style adventure is their crowning, off-kilter triumph.

Central to a story that ropes in everything from talking dogs to a Christopher Plummer's splendidly vengeful explorer is the utterly beguiling relationship between Carl and his late wife.

Early in the film there is a short, wordless sequence which chronicles how they met, fell in love, married, failed to produce children yet settled into a richly rewarding old age. It's probably the most poignant thing you will see all year.

Of course, the studio behind The Incredibles can be relied upon for heart-in-your-mouth action and a stunning aerial stand-off inside (and on top of) a massive airship is an adrenalin-pumping highlight.

But it's the humanity that shines through. Truly uplifting.

Tim Evans