Hello, Wall-E!

26 Jun

The geniuses at Pixar keep on cranking out animated films, and each time they do, people think they’re kids movies.

Well, with Wall-E, they’ve made a film that might not appeal to kids all that much. And that’s fine with me.

Wall-E is a beautiful film about loneliness, love, caring for the Earth, and other grown-up topics, and it stars a robot — not exactly the kind of thing a kid can cuddle up with at night.

In addition, nearly half the film, if not more, is completely dialogue-free, which will surely make the little ones antsy.

The rest of us, on the other hand, can sit back and enjoy this tale of a robot left behind on Earth to clean up all the garbage while the humans are living large (quite literally) in space. The action takes place about 800 years into the future, when the skyscrapers share airspace with tall piles of trash.

It’s on this abandoned planet that Wall-E lives, with just the cockroaches to keep him company.

For the first third of Wall-E, that’s about all there is: just Wall-E rolling around the empty landscape, being curious, and getting into mischief with the stuff he finds. It’s almost like watching an alternate version of I Am Legend starring Charlie Chaplin. (And I’ve gotta say, this animated robot might just be a better actor than Will Smith.)

In his travels, the curious Wall-E has made some memorable finds — light bulbs, forks and spoons, Christmas lights, a Rubik’s Cube, an iPod, etc. — but none has captured his imagination quite like a VHS tape of Hello, Dolly!, which he watches over and over. He even sings and dances along with the music.

Wall-E clearly longs to find the connection with another something that the characters in the movie have with each other. Imagine that: the robot’s lonely.

But then one day, a space ship arrives, bringing with it Eve, a bright white robot sent to seek out life on Earth, if any exists. Wall-E is smitten, and he goes about trying to win her “heart.” There’s more to it than this “simple” love story, but that’s the general gist of the film and where most of the forward momentum comes from.

If a robot love story sounds corny or far-fetched, remember: it’s still a cartoon. But I have to say, this is one of the sweetest, most innocent, and wonderful movies I’ve seen in a very long time.

Watching these two very different mechanical beings interact is so cool and so well rendered that you almost believe they’re really falling in love, or at least that they really have emotions. They certainly look real enough.

As usual, Pixar has created a unique world and animated it beautifully, and the “acting” is, once again, on the mark.

If only the movie could be only about Wall-E and Eve. When we go into space and meet the humans, things become less engaging and less endearing. There’s a pretty heavy-handed environmental message that’s very obvious and distracting. And the humans themselves are animated so cartoonishly that in contrast to Wall-E and Eve, they’re just hard to take seriously. Which is sort of the point, I know, but it means you’re taken out of the movie emotionally every time the action centers on them, even if it’s briefly.

So while Wall-E is certainly one of the year’s best films so far, and it will likely win the Best Animated Film award at next year’s Oscars, it won’t make it into Pixar’s top 5 (unlike, say, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, the Toy Story films, and The Incredibles). Still, not-as-good Pixar (like, say, Cars) is still better than most anything else at the multiplex.

So I’m giving Wall-E a strong B+, and I’ll tell you to put on your Sunday clothes and go see it.

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