Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai and Christopher Plummer.
Last year, the Cannes Film Festival opened with an animated 3D work,
, the first time ever in the 60-odd-year history of the world's most renowned cinema event that annually takes place on the fabulous French Riviera. Pete Docter's Disney/Pixar
is now vying along with nine other movies for the Best Picture Oscar.
In many ways, I have always found animation, with its caricatured characters and hugely exaggerated expressions and features, somewhat cold and far removed from our own flesh and blood existence.
However, Docter seems to have taken his film smoothly across this barrier. First, there is, unlike the usual animated efforts, no real hero. Second, the story of
is deeply moving, and begins with Carl Fredericksen's (superbly voiced by Edward Asner) boyhood. His admiration for explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer lends his voice) is shared by Ellie, a sassy lass who is as extroverted as he is introverted. They marry, fail to have a baby and find joy in each other. Eventually she dies when Carl is 78.
The grumpy old widower, harassed by land sharks, ties his house to hundreds of helium balloons and flies away to Paradise Falls in South American jungles, the place he and Ellie had always wanted to go, but could not. Carl discovers on what he had perceived to be a lonely voyage with just the memory of his wife, a stowaway, eight-year-old Boy Scout Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) from a broken family. He is desperate to get one more medal, this time for helping the aged, and Carl seems the man.
For Carl, Russell is both a nuisance and a pleasure, and the widower's trip turns out to be far more fulfilling than he had ever hoped -- with an endangered bird, a friendly dog and a villain out to get the winged creature all adding to the old man's despair and delight.
is not exactly kid stuff. It serves both wit and emotion, and there are a couple of scenes which are extremely touching. So, be ready with your tissues. But beyond the tears and the laughs, the story telling is riveting.
Gautaman Bhaskaran has been writing on the Oscars for many years