Pixar computer cartoon weaves a web of delusional whimsy around a cantankerous old widower, not too dissimilar to Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, determined to live out the dream and the adventure he denied to his lifelong soul mate. To that end, he attaches a forest of helium balloons to his two-story house and sets sail for South America, specifically Paradise Falls, “a Land Lost in Time,” the stomping ground of his boyhood idol, an intrepid globe-trotter out of Jules Verne. (If party balloons can serve as a means of intercontinental transport, we can hardly be surprised at finding the boyhood idol still alive and kicking. Or at anything else.) This literal flight of fancy and its touchdown in “paradise” might have been taken as a metaphor of suicide were it not for the roly-poly little stowaway, a Wilderness Explorer in quest of a merit badge for Assisting the Elderly, presumably not including assisted suicide. He assists, rather, in a new lease on life: geriatric swashbuckling. (The old man, voiced by Ed Asner, bears an unmistakable likeness to the Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, and the kid, Jordan Nagai, is a Baby Buddha.) There seems no intrinsic reason for the insipid graphic style, the vacuum-sealed atmosphere, or the general feel of marshmallow and Styrofoam; no reason, that is, outside the limits of taste and talent among the Pixar people. The one glaring success in the picture is the oversized wide-eyed multicolored exotic bird, its resistance to anthropomorphization, its intractable maniacal birdiness. Co-directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson. (2009) — Duncan Shepherd
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