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'Up' full of great humor, action

UP — ★★★★ — Animated feature starring the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer and others; shown in both the 2-D and 3-D formats; rated PG (violence, mild vulgarity, slurs); in general release

"Up" is the first of Pixar's 10 feature-length movies to be presented in the Disney Digital 3-D format.

It won't be the last one either, though it is so full of goofy humor, exciting action and visual splendor that it doesn't need any such trickery to entertain audiences of all ages.

In fact, while it may seem to have a limiting premise and characters, it's done so well that it's easily on par with the Pixar films that came before it.

As with those aforementioned, earlier films, there's also a good balance between humor and necessary character drama. These guys definitely believe it telling a good story.

(By the way, for those who are hesitant to see a 3-D movie, there's good news. Theaters will also be showing this film in the more traditional, 2-D format as well.)

This delightful comic adventure tale follows Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), a septuagenarian who's still in mourning for his beloved wife. And he's about to lose his home to a greedy developer who wants to put up a high-rise in its place.

Rather than allowing that to happen, though, Carl decides it's time to realize his lifelong dream — by taking a trip to the South American wilderness.

He's attached thousands of helium balloons to his home, which allows it to become buoyant. And a unique steering system of sorts allows Carl to pilot this "mobile home" to his intended destination.

Unbeknownst to Carl, he has brought along a traveling companion: Russell (the voice of Jordan Nagai), a young wilderness adventurer who's hoping to get his last merit badge by aiding the elderly man.

A lot of our enjoyment of this story depends on us buying into and enjoying the initially brittle relationship between these two characters.

Fortunately, director Peter Docter ("Monsters, Inc.") knows this, and he and screenwriter Bob Peterson give the duo's friendship time to develop.

It doesn't hurt that the initially gruff Carl is voiced by Asner, who still endears himself even when we can't see his real face. (The character also bears a striking resemblance to beloved actor Spencer Tracy.)

Speaking of screen veterans, Christopher Plummer shows up as the voice of the film's big villain — a character that, ironically, was Carl's hero when he was a youth.

And some welcome comic relief is provided by Russell's clueless attempts at helping Carl, as well as a colorful bird creature the boy nicknames "Kevin" and a dog named Dug (voiced by Peterson, who also served the film's co-director.)

"Up" is rated PG and features some violent action and imagery (menacing animals, vehicular and explosive mayhem, a sword duel, gunplay, and some child-and-peril elements), some mildly vulgar humor and references (digestive jokes), and derogatory slurs and language relating to age and infirmity. Running time: 96 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com