Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Okay, already, Pixar. I surrender. I don’t need any more convincing. Just let me see WALL·E already and stop taunting me. It’s maddening. The film sounds amazing. All of the character vignettes are wonderful little bits of animation that reinforce how charismatic WALL·E is. His live appearances around the country have been great to see popping up on YouTube. And now there’s that weird-ass new character trailer Disney released...
... mission accomplished. I’m dying at this point. WALL·E looks crazy. So is it? Did Stanton pull it off? There are some serious expectations that Disney’s built for this film with the past year’s worth of marketing, and now the film’s done and starting to screen for some press. How does it play?
You know, I wouldn't much mind serving under John Lasseter in some sort of all-powerful, Pixar-led dictatorship. That's how much I've come to trust the guy's judgment. When the by-all-accounts-still-pretty-OK even-though-it-was-largely-devoid-of-heart and-also-starred-one-of-the-worst-fucking-comedians-on-the-planet "Cars" is your studio's closest thing to abject failure, you're doing something right. Many, many, many somethings right. That said, I was still pretty skeptical about "WALL*E" when I sat down. Maybe because, for whatever reason, director Andrew Stanton's last effort, "Finding Nemo," didn't enthrall me to quite the same degree it seemed to grab everyone else (as I've surmised from several subsequent arguments with friends over the respective merits of "Nemo" and "The Incredibles," the latter of which is unquestionably superior and if you don't agree I automatically hate you.) And actually, I'd say this feels more like a Brad Bird film than it does "Nemo," if for no other reason that, much like "Incredibles," it appealed to my inner geek (who lives somewhere inside my thyroid, doctors tell me). But despite my misgivings, which seem kind of silly in hindsight, "WALL*E" delivered big time. How big time is big time? Let's just say it's a good thing I was sitting in the back row, because this movie charmed my fucking pants off, then went down on me in public for an hour and a half. (To the family sitting next to me, sorry for all the noise.) Yes, "WALL*E" is absolutely that goddamn good. In case you don't know, and of course you do, it follows a little binocular-eyed robot on an abandoned, garbage-strewn Earth where he's spent the last seven centuries constructing skyscrapers out of trash — a building material of which there is plenty to work with. Soon, our utterly adowable hero meets EVE, a badass little floating bot with a pair of hand cannons and a sleek, edgeless body who looks like she jumped right out of Steve Jobs' latest wet dream (ironic, then, that's it's WALL*E who emits that unmistakable "Mac sound" whenever he boots up). Through a chain of events I won't spoil, WALL*E and the new object of his "aww"-worthy affection end up on a cruise-ship-like space station. This gigantic resort and its faux-paradise of an interior are populated by a human race that has morphed over eons of inactivity into a legion of lethargic doughboys, scooting around on futuristic floating Rascals while robots wait on them literally hand and foot. The action scenes and visual gags are handled with fleet-footed choreography that is, once again, reminiscent of "The Incredibles." And while the mostly silent opening portion of the film carries shades of "I Am Legend"-like solitude, what surprised me most was how much this movie has in common with Mike Judge's "Idiocracy." It's kind of uncanny, actually. Here you'll find the same refuse-covered cityscape. The same all-too-plausible depiction of a society dumbed down into an army of slovenly simpletons. The same ubiquitous Wal-Mart-esque superstore and the same inescapable advertisements. Minor familiarity aside, the slight touch of satire (look for a repackaged Bushism from Fred Willard) is surprisingly welcome and well-used. The other major plot thread, a budding romance between WALL*E and EVE, manages to stay sweet but never saccharine, and if you don't fall completely in love with these two robots then you're a heartless fucking bitch and/or bastard. If the film has one glaring misstep (and it does, which is what I'm about to tell you), it's the odd and ultimately pointless decision to include actual actors — via archive videos and ads still playing back on Earth — amid the far more elegant-looking animation. Seriously, would it have been that hard to CG Fred Willard's character? He's already half a cartoon. The puzzling choice is a Pixar first, and like I said, if there's a reason for it, it escaped me completely. Fortunately, the scenes are both brief and rare, and do precious little to detract from what adds up to be not only an immensely satisfying animated adventure, but a visually stunning science fiction odyssey as well. Oh, and stay through the credits. They're kind of fun.
I’ve heard Stanton name-check 2001 frequently over the last year in regards to this film, and that’s a mighty big name to evoke in the SF world. I’m curious to see if it’s a “real” SF film the way KUNG FU PANDA is a “real” kung-fu film, and this next review gives me some hope:
Hi Harry, WALL*E is flipping brilliant, if you ask me. More than anything, it will make you think of the great cautionary SF movies of the 1970s: Logan’s Run, THX-1138, Soylent Green, and (especially) Silent Running. Except that SF pictures were, for the most part, low-budget affairs in those days—and this one is visually opulent to the point of overload. There are also frequent nods to other genre films from the same period (enough to get an old-timer like me feeling giddy with nostalgia): echoes of everything from 2001 and Planet of the Apes, to The Poseidon Adventure and The Black Hole. Yes, I really mean it. WALL*E is a science-fiction film first—a real one, with real points to make—and a cute-robot film second. And how. Not that the cute robot stuff isn’t brilliant, too. In a day when whole CG features are constructed around chatterbox vocal performances by trendy comics shooting off one-liners like firecrackers, hoping one or two will actually stick, 99.9 % of WALL*E’s comedy is visual. It’s like a Buster Keaton film with computers. And like the great silent comedies, it achieves a universality because of this, the international language of film. The dubbing for foreign markets, in other words, will be about half a day’s work. Hitchcock is smiling somewhere tonight—and so am I! But it’s the story that’s going to stir up a lot of comment—maybe the most powerful warning against consumerism, unsustainable lifestyles, and addiction to luxury that was ever offered in a mainstream film. It’s downright chilling in places, without ever ceasing to be funny, exciting, heart-warming entertainment in the now time-honored Pixar tradition. Amazing. How does it fare against the other Pixars? Right up there with The Incredibles and the two Toy Stories, for my money. It’s got the ravishing visuals of Ratatouille, the simplicity and warmth of Finding Nemo, and the eye-candy factor from Cars. Best of the best. How will it do at the B.O.? If I have any worries, it’s here. It may be just a little too cerebral for John Q. Sixpack (a pretty reliable guy, most of the time, IMHO)— I don’t know. It may come across to some folk just the same way Back to the Future Part 2 did (that is, too confusing or just too “heady” and geeky). Possibly. But the small crowd I was with certainly laughed a lot. And they clapped at the end. We’ll see, I suppose… But I say God Bless the gang at Emeryville!—the most daring and adventurous gang of picture-makers since The Mercury Theatre or (dare I say it) Disney’s when it was down on Hyperion Avenue. Bravo! (And get this, Harry—WALL*E even has a fat guy for its hero!). If you use this, call me “Grandpa Vanderhof.”