I need to get a star graphic. Oh well. WALL-E is beyond good. It is beyond great. It is, without a doubt, the greatest Pixar film ever. But more than that, it is one of the finest animated films ever.
WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth class) is a simple robot, charged with the simple task of cleaning up earth 600 years after humans abandoned it following the global conglomorate Buy N Large’s almost eco-decimation of the planet. There were other WALL-E units, but WALL-E is the only one who remains active, and he’s developed a quirky personality. He lives alone on the planet, save for a pet cockroach, and the random interesting knick-knacks he finds. To bide his time, he watches an old VHS copy of Hello Dolly!, deciding what he’s missing in his life is love. Enter searcher robot EVE, sent by the humans (who live on massive space stations) to find signs of life on Earth. It’s the classic story of boy meets girl. Except boy and girl are robots. WALL-E falls in love with EVE, though she’s more interested in accomplishing her primary directive, which she does when WALL-E gives her a plant he found (get it, like a flower, awwwww), and then she promptly shuts down, waiting for the transport ship to collect her and her findings. Thus starts and interstellar journey to bring the humans out of their sluggish and completely pampered lives aboard the space stations, but more importantly, one of the greatest love stories ever committed to screen. Involving robots.
I really don’t know where to start with this. I haven’t had pre-release anticipation for an animated film since 2004’s The Incredibles (also Pixar). And I haven’t truley been impressed by one since then.
What got me with this one was a bizarrely intriguing story, coupled with fantastic filmmaking. And that, I believe, is the magic of Pixar. Where other animated films try to do a mix of adult content and kid stuff, so there’s “something the whole family can enjoy!”, Pixar films take the adults, particularly the adults without young kids (like myself), back to when we were kids. It recaptures the magic we all felt when we saw Aladdin go on the magic carpet ride with Jasmine, when Belle and Beast danced in the main ballroom, when Robin outfoxed (pun intended) Prince John, when Pinocchio turned into an ass, when Dumbo flew for the first time and when Prince Charming kissed Snow White to bring her out of her deep slumber. It leaves out the slick pop-culture references and the dubious double entendres the older audiences would understand but the youngens won’t.
But mostly, Pixar rewards its audience. And WALL-E is no different. There’s payoff. You don’t walk away wondering why you just sat through the movie. You walk away glad you were able to get to the theatre to see it.
Director Andrew Stanton (A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo) took a risk in creating what, for all intents and purposes, could be considered a silent film. A silent animated film. The first half hour is nothing but WALL-E, the cockroach, and ultimately EVE. Sure we get snippets of Fred Willard as the CEO of Buy N Large (live action no less) and a few clips of Hello Dolly!, but for the most part, it’s a robot and his bug. There’s a significant Buster Keaton/Charlie Chaplin feel to the character. To do that sort of thing in a modern “kids” film, takes guts. And Mr. Stanton, you’ve got ’em.
There’s some great political commentary in there, too. About the environment, about mass capitalism, about societal apathy. But all that is obvious to the viewer (except the younger ones, who probably define capitalism as “Washington, D.C.”). The thrust of the film, and what is most engaging about the picture is the love story.
We’re not looking at two human characters, or personified animals. These are two robots. It’s a new kind of love story. And it’s played perfectly between the two characters. Stanton kept it simple. He didn’t try to overcomplicate it, or make it goofy. It was a love story, and he told it. They just happen to be robots.
But really, and this is the technical portion of the review, the film would have been no where without the fantastic artwork of the Pixar animators. There’s a meticulous attention to detail that even in some of the better animated films you don’t get. And nothing is without purpose. There’s a reason everything that appears on screen, appears on screen. Be it foreshadowing, be it plot advancement, or be it just for laughs (like the Pizza Planet truck, or Hamm the Piggy Bank), it all serves a purpose. Nothing is thrown away.
It is my third 5 star review of the year… and it is the first ever animated film to hold the number one slot in my living list of “Best Film of the Year.” And that means in the now 5 years that I’ve been keeping those lists, this is the first time. Seriously… go see it. You have to. I loved this film.