Pixar's latest film, Wall-e has been over a decade in the making, but the film's subversive, environmentally friendly, anti-consumerism platform holds truer today than they did ten years ago. Wall-e, which features the voices of Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Garlin and Fred Willard, centers around a robot (named, not surprisingly, "Wall-e") who was created to clean up a deserted Earth all alone. Wall-e meets a new robot named Eve and they fall in robot-love until she is forced to leave and he tags along. On the trip, the duo discover a spaceship inhabited by humans (and where all of them have grown fat and lazy, sucking down fast food like it's going out of style). What do reviewers have to say about a children's film with such subversive messages (let alone those that may be seen as "anti-fat" and "anti-Republican")? Do the messages overshadow the heart of the film? The reviews, after the jump.
There is far too much going on in "WALL-E" to take in during a single sitting; I would have happily watched two or three more times the other night.
Some day, there will be college courses devoted to this movie.
Kids will love "WALL-E," the robot's epic adventure and his heart-tugging love story. Some adults may be less comfortable, which is fine with me; most great works of art are inherently subversive.
But through it all, Wall-E never loses its sense of wonder: wonder at life, wonder at the universe, even wonder at the power of computer animation to bring us to worlds we've never seen before.
Wall-E is daring and traditional, groundbreaking and familiar, apocalyptic and sentimental - and how often do we get to say that in these dispiriting times?
ather than turn a tale of environmental cataclysm into a scolding, self-satisfied lecture, Mr. Stanton shows his awareness of the contradictions inherent in using the medium of popular cinema to advance a critique of corporate consumer culture. The residents of the space station, accustomed to being tended by industrious robots, have grown to resemble giant babies, with soft faces, rounded torsos and stubby, weak limbs. Consumer capitalism, anticipating every possible need and swaddling its subjects in convenience, is an infantilizing force. But as they cruise around on reclining chairs, eyes fixed on video screens, taking in calories from straws sticking out of giant cups, these overgrown space babies also look like moviegoers at a multiplex.
They're us, in other words. And like us, they're not all bad.
"WALL-E" falls somewhere between those two poles. It's not as beautifully crafted a piece of work, either visually or narratively, as "Ratatouille" is. But it does have a soul, and for a portion of the movie, at least, Stanton (who co-wrote the script, with Jim Reardon; he and Pete Docter conceived the idea for the story) does take a surprisingly firm stance on the uselessness and unlikability of humankind. "WALL-E" shows us a future world in which humans - fed largely on junk food - have become so fat they look like old-fashioned rubber dollies bloated to obscene proportions. They're obese partly because they're lazy: Instead of walking, they've gotten used to coasting along on floating chaise lounges, and robots cater to their every whim. Instead of talking to each other face-to-face, they chat with their friends on computer screens that appear to be permanently affixed just a few inches from their faces - even when their friends are sailing along right next to them.
Directed and co-written by Andrew Stanton, a longtime Pixar collaborator who also directed the Oscar-winning Finding Nemo in 2003, Wall-E isn't quite as transcendent as last year's Ratatouille, but it's more formally innovative. Some of the lesser characters, particularly the misfit bots who help Wall-E stow away on the Axiom, could have been better fleshed out (if one can say that of a robot). But the central couple-forlorn, googly-eyed, stubbornly loyal Wall-E and sleek, directive-obsessed, but ultimately tenderhearted Eve-are triumphs of the animator's art, as their characters are established almost entirely through movement and gesture (though Burtt, who also provided the "voice" for Star Wars' R2-D2, is an expert clicker and beeper). Despite the virtuosity of its technical execution, Wall-E never feels like a soulless, well-oiled entertainment machine. Rather, the movie resembles its resilient, square-shaped hero: a built-to-last contraption with a disproportionately big heart.
WALL-E is a movie you want to discover, but without giving too much of it away, I'll just say that the early ''silent movie'' section, quietly enticing as it is, is merely the prelude to an eye-boggling future-shock adventure. WALL-E himself is the movie's mascot and unlikely hero; it's up to him to save a spacebound colony of humans who've ''evolved'' into hilariously infantile technology-junkie couch potatoes. Yet even as the movie turns pointedly, and resonantly, satirical, it never loses its heart. I'm not sure I'd trust anyone, kid or adult, who didn't get a bit of a lump in the throat by the end of WALL-E, a film that brings off what the best (and only the best) Pixar films have: It whisks you to another world, then makes it every inch our own.
That, presumably, could be addressed in a sequel. In the meantime, "Wall-E" pushes an agenda that could, and no doubt will, be interpreted as "green," or ecologically minded. It's a theme that is certainly present, at least as pertains to what forced humanity off the planet in the first place. But in a bigger sense, the picture seems to be making a quiet pitch for taking clear-headed responsibility for the health of the planet as well as one's body and mind.
The adages about how you must lie in the bed you make, and you are what you eat, both would seem to apply here. But Stanton, his co-story hatcher Pete Docter, co-scenarist Jim Reardon and the entire Pixar team operate on the principle that entertainment values come first, and they have applied it throughout to sprightly effect.
What's more, I don't think I've quite captured the film's enchanting storytelling. Directed and co-written by Andrew Stanton, who wrote and directed "Finding Nemo," it involves ideas, not simply mindless scenarios involving characters karate-kicking each other into high-angle shots. It involves a little work on the part of the audience, and a little thought, and might be especially stimulating to younger viewers. This story told in a different style and with a realistic look could have been a great science-fiction film. For that matter, maybe it is.
Following high-concept movies about a superhero family, talking cars and a gourmet rat, this is the Disney computer animation arm's boldest experiment yet. "WALL-E" is essentially a silent film in which the two main characters, a mismatched pair of robots, communicate through bleeps and blips and maybe three words between them.
And yet director Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo") is resourceful enough to find infinite ways for them to express themselves - amusingly, achingly, and with emotional precision. He's also created, with the help of a team of animators, a visual marvel. Not that this is in any way surprising from a Pixar flick, but still, it's worth noting.
The first half hour of "WALL-E" is essentially wordless, and left me speechless. This magnificent animated feature from Pixar starts on such a high plane of aspiration, and achievement, that you wonder whether the wonder can be sustained. But yes, it can. The director, Andrew Stanton, supported by a special-forces battalion of artists, voice artists and computer wizards, has conjured up a tender, comical love story between two robots whose feelings for each other seem as nuanced and deep as any you're likely to encounter these days in live-action drama. Better still, their story plays out in two disparate worlds that amount to a unified vision, stunning and hilarious in equal measure, of what we human creatures have been up to and where it could get us.
'Wall-E' opens today, nationwide