This just in: Pixar can do no wrong. While many people had doubts about their new film about a post-apocalypic world where humans have fled Earth, WALL*E proves to be quite a robot that could.
WALL*E (voiced by Ben Burtt), which means Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, is a robot made for one purpose only: to clean up Earth after the humans have made a mess of the planet. For 700 years, WALL*E have been compacting garbage and putting them into skyscraper-sized piles. WALL*E also has a sense of curiosity. He's interested in everything about humans -- he fills his bunk with lots of stuff, from tools to toys to just stuff. He's also watched a tape of Hello Dolly for literally a million times. He yearns to experience what it is like to dance and sing and, above all, to love.
One day, a spaceship shows up on Earth and deposits a flying robot named EVE (voiced by Elissa Knight), or Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator. Eve's mission is to scan Earth for any life form (other than the cockroach which WALL*E's befriended). It's love for first sight for WALL*E, and he wants to get to know Eve better. She's rather remote, until she finds something she's looking for in WALL*E's stash. Once activated, EVE is taken back to the humans now living on a giant ship in outer space. WALL*E follows as he tries to pursue EVE, not knowing he may be the key for the humans to return to Earth.
All the voice actors do their job well considering how little dialogue there is in the film. Fred Willard (For Your Consider) is the only real human presence in the film. He's the perfect BnL CEO. Jeff Garlin (Hooked) has the most lines as the Captain. John Ratzenberger (Ratatouille) and Kathy Najimy (Rat Race) are cute as John and Mary respectively, two of the residents on the human ship. Sigourney Weaver's (Baby Mama) distinctive voice makes for a sinister Computer. Ben Burtt and Elissa Knight bring the robots alive with their digitized voices.
The true stars of the film are the animators and writer-director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo). WALL*E is an ingenious creation. We'd never expect a robot could be so expressive and, pardon the pun, animated! WALL*E is one of Pixar's most interesting and affecting characters. WALL*E is also a self-deprecating clown who is nothing but serious. He's the kind of unlikely heroes who doesn't know he's special at all. All he wants is to get to know EVE better. He's not concerned about saving the world or mankind. He's totally driven by his curiosity and love. That makes him endearing.
The cast of characters are all excellent. EVE reminds us of an iPod, and she's by design more distant and even violent. But the great thing is that through WALL*E, she begins to learn that there's more in life than to follow the "directives." By the end, EVE shows enough warmth and concern that we know she really cares about WALL*E.
Written by Stanton, the story is rather simple and straightforward. Truth be told, there's not much depth or sophistication in the characters (as compared to, say, Ratatouille). That's exactly why WALL*E excels -- these are robots, and humans who have become lazy and simple-minded. The simplicity of the story is perfect. It's also physical comedy at its best. You don't need any dialogue to understand the plot, and audiences of all ages can understand the story perfectly. For the kids, it's a wonderful story with a lot of action and comedy. Of course, for the adults, they also have the additional layers of themes to consider, whether it's consumerism or the cautionary tale of losing touch with what is important (love, communication, connection with one another, doing things the hard way, etc.).
The animation is astounding. The post-apocralypic world is amazing to behold. It's even more eerie than that in I Am Legend. The sequences in space are wonderfully rendered and highly imaginative. There are scenes that give me goosebumps, and appear to be rather "spiritual." The scenes in the ship are hilarious. The colors are bright and the design (the ship, the robots, the gadgets, etc.) are extraordinary. Above all, there's certain darkness in the theme lurking underneath all that giddiness. For example, 700 years of easy living have made humans fat (okay, the lack of real gravity has something to do with that, too), lazy, and out of touch. People stare at their computer screens instead of talking and communicating with one another directly. Hmmm, sounds familiar?
The greatest thing about WALL*E is that it doesn't preach and hit the audience with the "message." And in truth, the "message" isn't the most important thing either. The is essentially a "love story" between two robots, and WALL*E gets to learn and experience what makes us all uniquely human: LOVE. And the ability to think for ourselves despite our "programming."
But never mind if you don't get any of that. The film is one of the best in recent years. It's simply a WALL*E good time for everyone.
Stars: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writers: Andrew Stanton
Distributor: Pixar/Buena Vista
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 9
Direction – 8
Animation – 10
Editing – 8
Production – 10
Total – 8.8 out of 10