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Wall-E (Walt Disney Studios, G)

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film_wall-e_sm.jpgPixar movies are always innovating and perfecting the art of computer animation, yet never losing sight of characterization or telling a good story.

 

 

 

 

 

film_wall-e.jpg 

Okay, I really don't understand Pixar. I mean, really. Do they ever fail? Are they human? What the hell?

I've never not liked a Pixar movie. Even their worst film, 2006's Cars, is still surprisingly good (this coming from someone who could give a poop about cars and/or racing). But it isn't just that their movies are good; they're always innovating and perfecting the art of computer animation, yet never losing sight of characterization or telling a good story.

And what fun and how imaginative Wall-E is! The film is set in 2700, where Earth has been abandoned for 700 years (plus or minus) on account of being overtaken with trash. Wall-E (voiced by Ben Burtt) is a robot (Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth-Class) set about to clean Earth so that it can eventually be repopulated, and the specific Wall-E of the title (the film's main character) is presumably the last functioning Wall-E unit left on Earth some 700 years later...and he still has a lot of work to do. Eventually he's met by Eve (voiced by Elissa Knight), a robot sent from the humans who are on their "700th year of a five-year cruise," to see if it can gather a sample of vegetation, which would serve as proof that Earth is ready to take on the human burden once again. Of course, once Eve shows up, Wall-E gets into all sorts of trouble, not least of which winding up back on the human's ship (where the last remaining humans in the galaxy reside).

There's all kinds of fun ideas and trickery here; it has been much publicized that the first 30 or 45 minutes of the film are free of dialogue, but it's much more 2001: A Space Odyssey than There Will Be Blood (regarding 2001, also be on the lookout for a HAL-9000 clone). It's up for debate here what counts as dialogue, as Wall-E does say a word or two in a robotic voice here or there that may or may not mean something; however, when dialogue such as you and I are accustomed to is introduced, it doesn't feel at all jarring; by this point you're enmeshed enough in the story to have not noticed the no dialogue thing. There's some interesting (and amazingly un-accusatory) social commentary regarding the direction that humans are going, both regarding taking care of the world and taking care of themselves, and in a strange way, it functions as a much less sarcastic and much more loving version of Idiocracy. What's more, there's actually some live action footage interwoven here (Wall-E is a fan of Hello Dolly!, and also there are scenes filmed specific for Wall-E starring Fred Willard), and even that feels just right in the context.

Beyond that, on a pure animation front, Wall-E is a marvel. The textures they design for Wall-E versus Eve are great to compare; Wall-E is endearingly dirty and worn down, and Eve is pristine and white, like a new iPod (think of the distinction between Woody and Buzz taken to a logical extreme, and you're on the right track). I could have spent the film's entire 97-minute running time just watching Wall-E's eyes focus and unfocus behind their protective plastic shield and have been happy.

And finally, the short that precedes the film, Presto, is maybe my favorite short Pixar's ever done, or at least the funniest. I am forever jealous of the Pixar team's talent, and forever grateful that I get to bear the fruits of it. | Pete Timmermann

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