“Despite the sheer volume of incident and action required of any film that includes young kids as a major portion of its target audience, Up is an exceptionally refined picture,” Variety‘s Todd McCarthy posted early this morning. “Unlike so many animated films, it’s not all about sensory bombardment and volume. As Pixar’s process is increasingly analyzed, the more one appreciates the care that goes into the writing. The underlying carpentry here is so strong, it seems it would be hard to go too far wrong in the execution.

“Although the cliffhanger effects are augmented by 3-D projection, never do co-directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson shove anything in the viewer’s face just because of its 3-D potential. In fact, the film’s overall loveliness presents a conceivable argument in favor of seeing it in 2-D: Even with the strongest possible projector bulbs, the 3-D glasses reduce the image’s brightness by 20%. At the very least, the incentive for seeing Up in 3-D would seem less powerful than it is for other films.”

Obviously this “tale of an unlikely journey to uncharted geographic and emotional territory by an old codger and a young explorer could have been cloying, but instead proves disarming in its deep reserves of narrative imagination and surprise, as well as its poignant thematic balance of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled. A lack of overtly fantastical elements might endow Up with a somewhat lower initial must-see factor than some summer releases. But like all of Pixar’s features, this one will enjoy a rewardingly long ride in all venues and formats.”