Family-friendly movies don’t have a lot of credibility. There’s usually a lot of action–the equivalent of shaking a set of keys in front of your face–and enough double-entendre to keep the parents laughing. The laughing is dedicated in about equal measure to the quality of the pun and fact that it’s going over the kids’ heads. But that isn’t really a family movie, is it? That’s two movies going at the same time. There are some, though, that are actually shared from start to finish. Some of the classic Disney movies are like that. This century, though, the family films belong to Pixar. WALL·E (2008) is one of these.
“Too Much Trash Earth Covered” reads the headlines. The Earth is covered in trash and humanity has left to go on the Axiom , which is too big to be a space station. Left behind is WALL-E (Ben Burtt), a trash compacting robot with a fondness for Hello Dolly. WALL-E goes about collecting bits of whatever until a female, Mac-inspired scout robot, by the name of Eve (Elissa Knight) comes along. She isn’t the easiest to talk to, but when he starts to impress her with his collection, including a small plant he’s found, she takes his plant and shuts up like a clam. Eve is collected and WALL-E goes after her, all the way to Axiom where humanity has changed somewhat.
I didn’t know we had a pool.
What a great movie. They put so much character into Wall-E that I can hardly believe it. Wall-E is the best, but Eve and the Cockroach are also great. Wall-E says very little, but every sigh, groan, and eye-pout expresses everything you could want. If Woody Allen were a robot, this is how he would act. “W. ALLEn” a coincidence? I think NOT! Pixar is so great at animating inanimate objects—think of the desk lamp that knocks down the “I” in Pixar.
What I like the most about WALL-E is that there aren’t any cheesy manipulations to make up for weaknesses in an ending which you see in most family movies. The action will push forward towards a resolution and hesitate for just a second to gasp and then finish happily. That formula is just the manipulation, the cheesiness comes in with mournful string music and the dilemma is so obvious that any hesitation is pointless. It’s like a Who Wants to be a Millionaire? pause on the $100 question. This ending is consistently in question.
The story is very nice (Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter). As far as Wall-E, the character, is concerned, the story is terrific. When the humans get involved, it’s just nice. The idea that humans, when they get in front of screens, become slobbering drones is a bit too unreal even for a cartoon. There’s no question that some and maybe most would give up walking for a comfy hoverchair, but there would always be those who prefer to walk and read quality stuff. Also, if you follow gaming at all, you know that variety is everything and somebody’s got to write those things. But that’s just a detail that doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the movie. There are plenty of movie-literate details–especially 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)–that build up the story as well.
Since this is an animated movie, I’ve got to mention the visual production. It’s great. As always with these movies, it’s the humans that look a bit foolish. However, unlike Brave (2012) which created an incredibly realistic environment, WALL-E has less need for natural details than space-oriented scenes. The robots all look terrific and have great variety and characterization. This is what Pixar does well. Because they are also concerned with story quality, I expect that they will match Disney as household names in family films.
Also, if you get the DVD or BluRay, be sure to check out the terrific shorts on the Bonus Features. Presto (2008) is about a magician and his attempt to pull a rabbit out of the hat and BURN-E (2008) a short concerning one of the many support robots on the Axiom. They’re both very funny and thoughtful. Do they still have cartoons on television anymore? I think those classic comedic bits from the Marx Brothers or Chaplin are better with cartoons than humans (depending on my mood).
It’s a bit expensive, like most Disney releases, but may be worth shelling out $20.