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Well, I definitely wish I had managed to see this when it was in theaters. Still, just watching the DVD was pretty awesome. I wanna say that the first thing I watched on the DVD was a Pixar Short called Partly Cloudy, which played before the film in theaters, but of course I didn't get to see it then. It has nothing to do with this film, but it was pretty funny, anyway. (Man, did I feel bad for that stork.) After watching the movie itself, I watched another animated short, which first appeared on this DVD, called Dug's Special Mission, which was also amusing, and which does relate to this film.
Anyway, the movie begins with a young boy named Carl Fredricksen watching a newsreel at a movie theater at some point in the past, like the 1930s or so. It told the story of an adventurer named Charles Muntz, who Carl idolized, but Muntz had been accused of faking a skeleton of a giant bird he claimed to have discovered in Paradise Falls, South America. He went back there, seeking to capture one of the birds alive, so he could restore his good name. Anyway, after the newsreel ends, Carl goes out and imagines himself as an explorer, when suddenly he meets a girl named Ellie, who is also a fan of Muntz. She keeps an "Adventure Book" which she plans to fill with stuff about the adventures she'll have someday. Both she and Carl want to eventually go to Paradise Falls themselves. It's all very cute and sweet, but suddenly the scene flashes forward into a fast-paced montage of their lives together, starting with the two of them getting married when they've grown up, eventually learning they can't have children, and never managing to go off on their grand adventure, but still happily growing old together. All very sweet and sad and happy and everything... and it ends with Ellie dying. Very sad.
And then we see Carl (Ed Asner), alone in their house. And... well, there's a series of events that makes it seem Carl will have to move into a retirement home, which of course would mean losing the house that holds all his memories of Ellie. So he comes up with a plan to prevent that: he ties thousands of helium-filled balloons to his house, so that he can fly it to Paradise Falls. But after he's airborn, it turns out that a young boy named Russell, a Wilderness Explorer looking to earn a badge for assisting the elderly, has been taken away with the house, so now Carl's stuck with him. He'd like to land so Russell can just go home, but they get caught up in a storm, and later... Carl wakes up, and they're flying over Paradise Falls.
And more stuff happens that forces Carl and Russell to have to walk from this point on, tethering themselves to the floating house to pull it to the side of the cliff by the waterfall, where Carl and Ellie had always wanted to move. It's a long walk, and some really crazy stuff happens along the way. I mean seriously, you'd think flying a house to South America with helium balloons would be the craziest, most ridiculously impossible thing in the movie, but you'd be wrong. Listen... Carl and Russell meet a dog named Dug, who can talk thanks to a collar he wears, which was invented by his master. And there are a ton of other talking dogs with such collars, who perform various tasks for their master, but the main one is trying to find a certain elusive bird. (It's predictable who their master turns out to be, though I did find it hard to believe he was still alive after so many years, considering that Carl, who was a little boy when he- yes, it's Charles Muntz- was already a grown man, is now an old man himself.) Anyway, before Carl and Russell ever meet Muntz (Christopher Plummer), before they even met Dug, they came across the very bird that Muntz and his dogs were looking for all these years. Russell befriends the bird and names it Kevin, though it later turns out to be a mother who wanted to get back to her nest. (At least the bird doesn't talk.)
Um. Yeah. All kinds of craziness. For a long time, Carl wants nothing to do with Dug or Kevin, and can barely tolerate Russell; all he wants to do is get his house to the spot he and Ellie had planned on. However, he gets caught up in a pretty incredible adventure, when it turns out that Muntz has apparently gone mad (he kinda reminds me of Reinhardt from The Black Hole), and thinks anyone who ever shows up in Paradise Falls is trying to capture the bird before he can. His paranoia certainly isn't abated when he finds that the bird has been travelling with Carl and Russell. So... they have to basically run for their lives, with help from Dug (who has turned against his pack, but they never liked him, anyway). Russell wants to protect Kevin and help her get back to her nest, no matter how dangerous that might be. What with a homicidal madman and a pack of vicious talking dogs chasing them, and all. And meanwhile, the balloons continue to lose helium, so there's a major time factor going on, if Carl wants to make it to his spot before it lands for good.
Right, that's basically the plot. Maybe I've said too much. But trust me... it's a lot more fun to watch than to read about. And of course I'm not saying how it all works out in the end. But there's plenty of humor, and pathos, adventure (both old men are improbably strong and resilient, given their age), and... you know, kind of predictable lessons for Carl to learn, which are nevertheless pretty moving. I don't know what else to say, it was just... a really beautiful and funny and tragic and at times even kind of scary movie. Not my favorite Pixar movie, but not my least favorite, either; and as I always say, there's no such thing as a Pixar movie that isn't pretty good, at the very least.