Up ★★★★½

Dug: Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, "I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead." Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.

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Sighhh. I think even the few detractors of Up can agree (or at least they fucking should, or else be put in the cone of shame): the opening montage with Carl and Ellie's beautiful, heartbreaking love story, from being children to growing old together, set to Michael Giacchino's exquisite music, is sheer, emotionally-affecting movie magic and it's probably the greatest storytelling sequence Pixar has produced thus far... not sure if anyone forgets or is displeased with that part when recollecting the film. A union felt lived in.

When that piece of cinematic brilliance ends, however, I completely understand if some find the rest of the movie jarring and lackluster or even uninspiring -- I was once among them -- but I've since grown to love Carl's laborious quest to carry his cumbersome balloon-floating house (gorgeously animated) to Paradise Falls, somewhere in South America (''It's like America... but South'') as he promised his late wife they would one day visit, the battle over the exotic bird, Kevin, who is actually a girl, the (once annoying) dogs who are easily distracted by squirrels, and (the also once irritating) Russell, the inadvertently kidnapped scout looking to earn his Assisting the Elderly badge (and earn it he does). The narrative's catharsis of Carl (who is basically Spencer Tracy in animated form) transforming from widowed grouch to someone who learns to let go of his memories and start a new adventure late in his life has become a favourite for me, however slim a concept it was.

With stunning visuals, music striking all the right chords, entertaining characters and a satisfying overall story... Up quite simply soars.

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