Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review: WALL-E (****)

Featuring the voices and voice effects of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, and Jeff Garlin

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Rated G

104 minutes

Can animated films possibly get any better than this? WALL-E is Pixar’s greatest achievement: a mind-bogglingly beautiful animated film, a conceptually riveting futuristic vision, a side-splittingly hilarious comedy, and a masterfully effective romance, all rolled into one sublime package, that (I might as well say it) ranks as my pick for the best animated film since the genre was jumpstarted with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1939—perhaps even better than that. Never have I been so affected visually, mentally, and emotionally by an animated film as I was in this one. After it was over, my mouth hung open in disbelief - not just that an animated film could be so beautiful, but also that it could step so right any second of its running time.

The year is 2775. Planet Earth has been deserted by leisure-obsessed human pigs, I mean, beings, who, after much use and abuse of our planet, proceeded to move into a gigantic space station, Axiom. Left on Earth to finish Operation Clean-Up were groups of robots, labeled Waste Allocation Load Lifters, Earth-class (thus WALL-E). Seven hundred years later, one lonely robot remains. He spends his days cleaning up, finding treasures, and watching what appears to be the only movie left on the planet, Hello, Dolly! That is, until EVE, an Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, arrives. (Earth… extraterrestrial, scary, huh?) Eventually, they befriend each other, but not without a few near-death experiences for poor WALL-E, for whom it was love at first sight. That is, until WALL-E finds a plant. Due to her title, she is ultimately bound to take the plant back to her mothership, but neither of them wants her to leave. So, WALL-E boards the ship, as well, where the plot thickens and the adventure continues.

The story is rather thin, but it isn’t the point. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the plot is rather familiar but necessarily so. Due to long sections with no dialogue, this movie takes a monumental amount of patience to watch. What a daring move for Pixar to make a film aimed at children with little dialogue and no funny quotes. That, however, doesn’t make a difference, as the film is so engaging that you don’t notice after a while.

It might be bold to label WALL-E as the best animated film of all time, but it had that effect on me. WALL-E’s incredibly expressive robot eyes (down to the windshield wipers that clean off the grime when gazing in amazement at EVE), shots of the Milky Way in photorealistic beauty, a haunting vision of a New York City made entirely from piles of trash—all are images that may never leave my head: quiet little images with no corny one-liners or fart jokes.

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