30 June 2008
WALL•E, the latest film from the wizards at Pixar, is pure movie magic, a rare picture of wonder, hope, joy, love and social conscience.
While most of its animated contemporaries are busy trying to be hip with pop culture references, WALL•E, written and directed by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo), has more in common with classic silent films.
WALL•E, who speaks in beeps that form only an occasional word, is a direct descendant of Charlie Chaplin’s “Tramp” character, possessed as he is of the same lovable, naive earnestness that made Chaplin such an enduring and endearing screen icon.
Seven centuries from now, the picture is grim. With the Earth polluted to such an extent as to be uninhabitable, humans remain stuffed on a spaceship courtesy of the Buy N Large corporation. They spend their time with their plump bodies strapped into chairs, using virtual reality simulators to talk to the person floating next to them, loyal robot servants fulfilling their every want and need. Walking is foreign to them. They have a pool, but no one swims—they aren’t even aware the water is there.
Back home, the situation is even more dire. The robot workers BnL left behind to clean up the mess are all gone—except for one. With a small metal box as his body, simple treads and binocular-like eyes, Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-class, or WALL•E, continues his duties. Each day, he ventures outside, collects trash, compacts it into cubes and stacks it with the rest, creating piles of refuse as high as skyscrapers. The only companion in his lonely existence is a friendly cockroach.
But something has happened to WALL•E over the years. He has developed emotions and an insatiable curiosity, which has led him to gather a vast collection of trinkets, things like lighters, egg beaters and his favorite, a video of the musical Hello, Dolly!—he’s even learned the dance steps.
Then one day a spaceship arrives and deposits a sleek, high-tech robot, an Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, or EVE. For WALL•E, it’s love at first sight. For EVE, focused as she is on her directive to find plant life, which could mean the planet is once again suitable for humans, it takes some time to warm up to her persistent new friend.
As fate would have it, WALL•E turns out to have precisely what EVE is looking for, which sends her racing back to the spaceship to inform her human masters, with WALL•E not far behind.
I won’t go into any more specifics; I wouldn’t want to do anything to spoil the absolute delight the film offers from the first frame to the last.
Visually, the movie is a marvel, somehow finding beauty in the forlorn landscape of our abandoned planet in its opening scenes and contrasting that with the sterile, Kubrickian environs of the BnL spaceship. Perhaps most impressive is the seamless inclusion of live action footage from Hello, Dolly! and Fred Willard as BnL CEO Shelby Forthright.
We also have the comfort of Pixar stalwart John Ratzenberger returning to provide another voice, this time for John, a man startled by human contact and awakened to the world— and people—around him for the first time in his life.
It might be seven centuries into the future, and there are robots and spaceships, but love—personified by WALL•E and EVE, and John and Mary (Kathy Najimy)—is as it always has been. And a little love is all humanity needs to find its way again. It is simple story, yet it becomes unlike anything before it because it is told with such skill and imagination.
WALL•E is an instant classic that will be beloved by generations to come.
(Rated G. 97 minutes.)