At the time of this writing, Disney-Pixar's Up has received a 98% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. That means that 98% of the nation's movie critics have given it the "thumbs up." Such a high rating almost never happens.
That said, any movie, no matter how great, can be over-hyped, which can ruin the experience. For example, Ratatouille received such acclaim that my initial viewing of it was met with dissapointment (though I appreciated it much, much more the second time around). So, in the interest of not raising the bar too high, I will simply say that Up continues Pixar's streak of excellence.
Combining poignant and profound themes with memorable characters and a contagious sense of adventure is par for the course for the group that brought us Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, and Wall-E. What do all these films have in common? They effectively tap into our childlike sense of wonder while never insulting our intelligence or emotional maturity (or that of children, for that matter).
Likewise, Pixar makes the most visually stunning and sharply humorous films of anyone doing animation right now. In fact, they make some of the best films, period. Up is no exception, and it ranks particularly high on my Pixar list because it did something the others didn't. It made me cry. Twice. And I tell you, not with macho vanity, but merely to drive home the point: I don't cry in movies. It's not because I'm "too tough." I feel and get moved like anybody else. But I'm not a big cryer; when I do, it's because something is truly beautiful, and often bittersweet. States of Grace made me cry at the end. The Passion of the Christ made me cry when Mary runs to Jesus as a mother trying to comfort her son, only to, in turn, be comforted by Him. And now, Up got me going, with a pair of wordless moments (one towards the beginning, the other towards the end) that drive home how precious of a gift our lives are, as well as the people in them.
Don't worry, though, the movie is more of an adventure-comedy than a tearjerker. It simply has a beating heart, as the best adventures (and often the best comedies) do. It's thrilling. It's funny. For some reason I felt it dragged very slightly in the middle before kicking into high gear for the third act, but that's a minor complaint for something so thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Oh, by the way, I wanted to take Doug (the dog) home with me. You will too. MY GRADE: A.