starring Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight and Jeff Garlin
written & directed by Andrew Stanton
Rated G.

700 years in the future, a very special WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth-Class) unit is the only robot still operational as part of an attempt to clean-up a planet so contaminated humanity abandoned it long ago for the comforts of a luxury star cruiser. WALL•E has been cleaning for a very long time, without really knowing why, and along the way he has picked up a number of unique personality quirks. His solitary life is totally disrupted one day when a sleek, high-tech ‘bot named EVE lands on Earth as part of a top-secret automated mission that the fat, lazy humans back on the ship have forgotten all about. When the time comes for EVE to return, WALL•E (who has fallen in love) stows away, and their arrival back on the cruiser shakes things up in ways no one could have imagined.

It almost seems unnecessary to confirm that Pixar has gone and knocked another one right out of the park, but they have. With WALL•E, however, they have not only brought to the screen the visual flair and riveting storytelling to which we have grown accustomed, they have all but reinvented the wheel with respect to what we expect when we go to see an animated film, a cartoon. This movie probably has the best shot of any animated film ever at winning the Oscar for Best Picture, (to say nothing of the awards it is all but guaranteed to win). WALL•E is pure movie magic from beginning to end, an experience more than anything else. It is entertaining, enthralling and, yes, even enriching in its beauty and its simplicity.

The most amazing thing about WALL•E is that it barely relies at all on spoken dialogue. I predict that this film will be huge overseas. The language it speaks is universal. Because so little of the movie contains any actual dialogue, there is nothing to impair our enjoyment of the visual feast of ideas that is on display throughout. The first third of the film, which revolves almost entirely around WALL•E and his activities on earth, is among the greatest sequences I have ever seen. I felt that I could watch an entire movie built solely around that, and not get bored or restless.

Ben Burtt, the legendary sound designer behind the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, supplies the non-verbal robots with their voices, a whole synthetic vocabulary the likes of which haven’t been heard since R2-D2 first charmed audiences in 1977. Burtt outdoes himself here, several-fold. The endearing language of the title character together with his amazingly-expressive body language are certain to captivate. If WALL•E and his robot friends don’t win you over, you have a heart of stone.

Another key supporting player in this nearly-wordless masterpiece is yet another fantastic score by Thomas Newman (who previously worked with Pixar on the excellent Finding Nemo). His beautiful, haunting music (which I have enjoyed so much in films like Road to Perdition, American Beauty and Little Children) is a perfect fit for this project, and thanks to the relative silence the audience has no trouble enjoying it.

WALL•E invokes a variety of science fiction themes and conventions along the way, and isn’t above some truly hilarious nods to classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but there is no denying the creative originality at work here, either. Certainly the last thing one would expect from a cartoon about robots would be one of the most touching love stories of recent years. It pushes all of the right buttons without even seeming to try.

Superlatives fail me, and I am loathe to discuss WALL•E overmuch lest I spoil a single moment. We will all, no doubt, be hearing a lot about this movie in days to come. You should see it. It’s as simple as that. I must spare a moment further, though, to mention the very beginning and the very end. The short with which Pixar opens the film is “Presto,” a raucously funny slapstick bit concerning an on-stage altercation between a talented magician and his uncooperative rabbit, is an instant classic among Pixar shorts. As for the end, just in case you are not regularly in the habit of doing so, stay for the credits. Yes, in WALL•E, even the end credits are among the best I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to go again tomorrow.

~ by Jared on June 27, 2008.

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