As great as any movie Pixar Animation has ever made (and that is saying something), WALL•E takes place hundreds of years in the future. The Earth has been abandoned because of excessive trash, and WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load-Lifting Earth-Class) robots have been left to clean up the mess. By 2815, only one WALL•E unit is still operational, and he has developed an inquisitive personality. He lives in a bunker full of human knick-knacks that are familiar to us, but mysterious to him (very reminiscent of Ariel’s cave in The Little Mermaid). Once an EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) robot arrives on a secret mission, WALL•E becomes completely love-struck, and soon gets caught up in an interstellar quest to save humanity.
Just as The Incredibles (2004) surprised viewers by not only being a great family film, but also a great superhero movie, I think WALL•E will surprise fans of science fiction. Serious themes are explored, and the film serves as a cautionary tale against the excessive waste of our consumer society. The environmental moral is powerfully conveyed, but never hit over our heads, and the overall message is a hopeful one. However, the romance between WALL•E and EVE takes center stage, and I’m still not sure how Pixar pulled it off. If you think a robot romance can’t move you to tears, think again.
For a film set so deeply into the future, WALL•E feels a lot like the Classics. Similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey (which is paid homage in WALL•E more than once), this film has very little dialogue. It’s just a few tweaks away from having no spoken words at all, but the storytelling is so strong, you probably won’t notice. The romance is old-fashioned, and much of the soundtrack is built around songs from Hello, Dolly! (1969), which WALL•E watches constantly via an ancient VHS tape. When the film opened with a shot of outer space and Michael Crawford singing, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” I knew I was along for a very special ride.
Pixar does things with animation that no one else has been able to do. Perhaps most impressive is the equal appeal to viewers of all ages. Most family films have scenes for adults and scenes for children, but in Pixar's films, the same scenes speak to all. As simple as it may seem, there’s rich complexity in this multi-layered storytelling. It’s the tried-and-true recipe of every great family film, and it’s never as easy as it appears.
Given Pixar’s track record, I expected to enjoy WALL•E, but I didn’t expect to be awestruck. I wasn’t prepared to wipe tears away during the closing credits. I didn’t think a rusty old robot could be so endlessly lovable. Writer/Director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) has crafted a bold, wonderful tale of loneliness and love that will transcend ages and cultures, and just like its central character, will stand the test of time.
My wife and I saw WALL•E during an electrical storm, and the theater lost power twice during the movie. At the end of the show, we were given vouchers to see any film we wanted. We’re going to see WALL•E again.
Click here to view the trailer
For the Parents:
MPAA Rating: Rated G
WALL•E’s first half-hour has some surprisingly dark elements, being set in a dystopian future, but I think kids will eat up the visuals and quirky humor. The loud sounds and explosions might frighten the very youngest children, but there’s no truly objectionable content. You’ll enjoy this just as much as your kids, if not more.