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Reviewer:  Jim "JR" Rutkowski
Director:   Andrew Stanton
Andrew Stanton
Starring the Voices of:
Benjamin Burtt, Jeff Garlin, Elissa Knight,
Length:   97 minutes
Released:   062708
G suitable for all ages
"...the inventiveness of Stanton and his army of artists never flags; the movie's never-ending series of visual astonishments are nothing less than awe-inspiring."
WALL-E the robot may be battered and obsolete, but "WALL-E" the movie is a marvel of state-of-the-art technological achievement -- perhaps the most brilliantly designed, beautifully executed and technically accomplished feature yet from Pixar Animation Studios, the company responsible for more than a decade of computer-generated milestones, from "Toy Story" in 1995 to "Ratatouille" in 2007.

Pixar's boldness has advanced with its achievements in special effects. "Ratatouille" required audiences to identify with that most hated of mammals, a rat; "WALL-E" asks moviegoers to find enjoyment in a story that spends its first half hour on an all but dead future Earth of trash mountains and rotting skyscrapers, inhabited only by the title rusty robot and its (his?) trusty sidekick, a cockroach. (WALL-E and the cockroach function as a sort of perverse parody of Pinocchio -- another manufactured character who longs for "human" connection -- and Jiminy Cricket, the beloved companions from an earlier Disney release.)

R2-D2 and Number 5 from "Short Circuit" proved that viewers will respond to cute robots, so the film's real challenge was not in "humanizing" its title character but in holding viewers through its brave opening act, which is free of dialogue except for the bleeps, whirrs and whistles of the robot, and the voices from a battered videotape of the 1969 musical "Hello, Dolly!" that is the lonely WALL-E's prized possession. (The lyrics, "Put on your Sunday clothes, there's lots of world out there" provide an ironic soundtrack for WALL-E's robot dreams.)

This opening act is infused with a melancholy that may be unprecedented in an animated film from co-producers Pixar and Disney -- and, in fact, is unusual for a live-action commercial "adult" film. As an evocation of a ruined Earth, the G-rated "WALL-E" makes the recent PG-13-rated "I Am Legend" look like the cheap, juvenile video game that it essentially is.

To find a closer cousin to "WALL-E," one needs to go back to the cautionary eco-disaster science-fiction films of the 1970s and '80s, such as "The Quiet Earth," "Silent Running" and "No Blade of Grass." The way in which WALL-E pointlessly carries out his trash-collection programming even centuries after humanity has vanished suggests the wistful 1950 Ray Bradbury short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," about a futuristic automated house that continues to perform its domestic functions even after nuclear war has wiped out the population.

Of course, as one expects from a Pixar/Disney release, "WALL-E" ultimately proves to be a self-consciously uplifting film, with a happy ending. It's filled with comedy and slapstick, with "An Inconvenient Truth" message. Even so, "WALL-E," like "Ratatouille," probably will be one of Pixar's less impressive successes at the box office -- a likelihood that makes the movie's production all the more laudable. (The company obviously is aware that "Wall-E" represents a marketing challenge; the slogan in the current "WALL-E" print ads -- "The Most Fun You'll Have at the Movies This Summer!" -- is not only misleading and uninformative but lame.)
Written and directed by one of Pixar's founding animators, Andrew Stanton (also the credited director of "Finding Nemo"), "WALL-E" has its title "Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class" robot continuing to collect and compact trash some 700 years after the last Ark-like spaceships have left the apparently hopelessly polluted Earth.

With his expressive binocular eyes and comical tank-tread terpsichore, WALL-E is a successor to the silent comedy tradition of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton -- a kinship that is reinforced when his solitude is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the Angelina Jolie of robots, the hot but dangerous EVE, a sleek, highly advanced Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator probe from outer space. WALL-E, of course, is smitten. (When EVE eventually acknowledges WALL-E, film buffs may think of the famous moment when Virginia Cherrill recognizes Chaplin at the end of "City Lights.")

When EVE returns to its (her?) mothership with WALL-E as a hapless stowaway, the pantomime-with-sound-effects portion of the film ends. "WALL-E" becomes a more traditional Pixar adventure-comedy when WALL-E meets the humans of the future: Bloated consumers who float about their ship on gravity-defying robot lounge chairs that provide them with an endless supply of unhealthy processed food treats and an array of ever-changing must-have product choices. The president (Fred Willard) who authorized this mission was not, apparently, an elected official but a corporate CEO. "Stay the course," he tells his passengers, in a recorded message about "the 700th anniversary of the five-year cruise" that is one of the movie's more pointed references to current political fecklessness.

For me, "WALL-E" becomes less interesting after the human characters are introduced. (These include the ship's captain, voiced by "Curb Your Enthusiasm" regular Jeff Garlin.) The movie's critique of current American culture is not exactly subtle, and the story's action-packed progression toward its inevitable inspirational climax is unnecessarily prolonged. Still, the inventiveness of Stanton and his army of artists never flags; the movie's never-ending series of visual astonishments are nothing less than awe-inspiring.

There is real poignancy in his story, which is both a space-age adventure and a classic romance. Each is deeply compelling. The result is a wondrous work of the imagination and, to date, the yearís best film.

WALL-E © 2008 Pixar/Walt Disney
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2008 Alternate Reality, Inc.



"The humor is broad enough so that you donít have to explain the jokes to your kids and can laugh at them as well."   (Bo)


"Cars may cross the finish line ahead of any of 2006's other animated films, it's several laps behind its Pixar siblings."  (JR)


"Pixar has done it again, and, in the process, managed to salvage Disney's reputation - at least for a little longer."  (JR)