Written by: Jim Reardon & Andrew Stanton, based on a story by Pete Docter & Andrew Stanton
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger
My Advice: Don’t Miss It.
Earth is become what every eco-maniac has warned us it would become: a giant landfill that somebody forgot to put the top on. Mankind has fled to the stars and the megacorp that runs their livesâ€”Buy N Largeâ€”has put a plan in place to clean the place up while the species is on its off-world vacation. Trouble is, from the beginning of the film, you get the clear notion that something’s a bit off-kilter. Might it have something to do with the giant building-sized trash heaps, like robot-created works of art? Or might it just be that there’s only one freaking robot left, WALL-E. And he presses on as best he can. Or at least he does, until he finds something he’s been looking for: a companion. A strange and more sophisticated robot has arrived, and she has a directive. And what it isâ€”she’s not telling.
[ad#longpost]This is probably the world’s most (and only?) family-friendly post-apocalypse movie. It does go to some very dark places in its Last Robot on Earth setup, which manages to bestow a sense of desolation I’ve scarcely seen in animation. But we have WALL-E to laugh with and at as he goes through his routine, and Stanton keeps everything light so we’re not bogged down.
And it’s sort of hard to get bogged down when Pixar does for space what they did for the ocean andâ€¦well, pretty much everywhere else they decide to set their movies. Hell, even in Trash City that the film starts in, the place is a beautiful heap of trash. It’s like Planet Oscar for crying out loud. But Pixar has probably gotten more people excited about spaceâ€”in a film about the Earth and mankind on it, no lessâ€”than NASA has managed to do since the Mars rovers started going wild. And that’s the main thing about the film: it’s just freaking gorgeous. The trip through space, dancing in space, even the chaotic mayhem of humanity’s lot in the futureâ€”it’s all just amazingly cool and gorgeous.
And yes, a lot of the film is silent or related through either blips or beeps or electronic effects, and it all means that sound designer Ben Burtt better damn well win an Oscar for this or there’s going to be bloodshed. Because there’s a lot of silent character play and the animators are the true stars here. We’ve always known they were goodâ€”and Pixar’s are the bestâ€”but here they standout more than ever, because it’s mostly body language that carries the characterizations.
The film has lived up to what Stanton has basically saidâ€”I believe him when he said that he didn’t really have an agenda when writing the thing, he just wanted to tell a story. Thus the story is there for enviromentalists to get pissy about, for people worried about offending the obese to get pissy about, for conservatives who wouldn’t know true conservatism if it bit them on the assâ€¦something to offend anybody who shows up with a mind for being offended.
But of course they all miss the pointâ€”there’s only one brief, fleeting moment where the movie almostâ€”ALMOSTâ€”goes too far and abandons itself for a Message. A character Gets It in such a way that I thought was a little too forced and could have done fine with it tuned down a bitâ€”that’s the reason I can’t, in good conscience, name this a 5-cup perfect film. But really the film is about what it means to lose touch with what it means to be human. Everything else is incidental. Whatever it is that makes you humanâ€”whether it’s love, or other people, or fulfilling what you see as your responsibiltiesâ€”that’s what is celebrated. And overthrowing the normâ€”whatever that might be that’s standing in the way of reaching that goal of being humanâ€”that’s what is celebrated. But that’s one small thing. Beyond that, the film’s ludicrously good. And it bears multiple viewings to take in everythingâ€”again, typical of Pixar.
Anyway, if you show up to watch a good movie, then you’re not going to get bogged down in this agenda silliness. It’s a work of art, a sci-fi funhouse, and hilarious all at once.