As any filmgoer knows, Pixar is the gold standard for animated film. They continually write clever, audience-pleasing screenplays that are brought to life by cutting-edge, breathtaking animation. WALL-E certainly fits the Pixar bill, but it is also a departure for a company that has traditionally played it safe (this is Disney, after all). WALL-E is, by and large, a silent film – and one with a message that will come on too strong for some. That it’s a technical marvel goes without saying, but audience reactions are likely to vary as the approach to WALL-E is experimental in comparison to Pixar’s previous efforts.
The year is 2700 and Earth has been reduced to a vacant, polluted, trash-compacted mess. All humans have left Earth while robots compact the trash left behind by mankind in the hopes that the planet will someday be habitable again. WALL-E (voiced by Ben Burtt) has been compacting trash for hundreds of years. He lives in a warehouse and collects all of the interesting things he comes across during his daily routine. The next morning he wakes up, recharges, and goes back to work. Things are endlessly mundane until an alien spacecraft drops off EVE, a mysterious robot who is clearly searching for something. WALL-E and EVE form a relationship, but when EVE is taken back to her native origin with a key piece of Earth’s vegetation, WALL-E has no choice but to travel across the galaxy to find his true love.
Only Pixar could pull off a story about robots in love with this much success. Taking a much more leisurely approach than in past films, Stanton immerses the audience in the Earth that once was. Visuals rule the first two acts of the movie as we acquaint ourselves with WALL-E and EVE. Their interaction consists of sci-fi noises and occasionally discernible English, but their actions speak louder than any dialogue. In nearly silent fashion, we become attached to these two robots.
It’s when WALL-E travels back to the current human stronghold, a spaceship named Axiom, that the film strays a bit. WALL-E discovers a complete civilization of nothing but obese, cola-guzzling Americans who lay in their recliners all day without a worry in the world. When WALL-E’s true purpose becomes apparent, Stanton comes on like a ton of bricks with a message that is all-too-common in today’s Hollywood landscape. It’s a mildly disappointing turn that feels out-of-place, much like the direction that 2006’s Happy Feet took.
Fortunately it proves to be a largely moot point of sorts since the core of WALL-E is about finding your true love and respecting this big ball floating along in space. There’s always a lesson to be learned through kids’ film, and WALL-E separates its agenda from what kids will really understand nicely. WALL-E is another fine entry into the Pixar canon, though its experimental approach may hasten some audiences. But if you’re ten years old and in it for the visuals, you’re in for a feast.
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Length: 103 Minutes
Theatrical Release: June 27, 2008
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Written by: Andrew Stanton. Titles by Jim Capobianco.
Cast: Ben Burtt (voice), Elissa Knight (voice), Jeff Garlin (voice), Fred Willard (voice), John Ratzenberger (voice), Kathy Najimy (voice)