A world of his own


Alright, Pixar. I’ve had it.

I am past the point of being tired trying to find new and creative ways to use superlatives that are as endlessly creative and fresh as your films.

Seriously, does everything you do have to be so superiorly textured and nuanced, inviting hours of “rewatchability?” (There, see? I now have to resort to making up words just to keep up. I hope you can sleep well at night in your money-lined pillows.)

“Wall*E” is not a film to watch, it is one to consume. Layered with more craft and care than any film released so far this year.

Readers of this paper’s film column will no doubt attest to the fact that it is on rare occasion that I report to resoundingly glowing praise or hyperbole often (unless, of course, Adam Sandler is involved – kidding!). But time and time again, I find myself overwhelmed with Pixar’s ability to take the most simple of concepts – the childhood love of toys (“Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2”) the bond between parent and child (“Finding Nemo” which was directed by “Wall*E’s” Andrew Stanton, “The Incredibles”), the importance of teamwork (“Monsters Inc.,” “A Bugs Life,” “Ratatouille”) and here, the rudimentary necessity of tactile social interaction – and make it alternately fresh, nostalgic, exciting, comfortable and gloriously rendered both emotionally and graphically.

WALL*E is short for Waste Allocation Lift Loader Earth-class, a cuddly little bundle of microchips that is alone in its Earth-bound duty of cleaning up the mountainous waste left behind by a fleeing human race centuries prior. It seems a big conglomerate (imagine Wal-Mart injected with anabolic steroids) made a mess of things after it took over running (and ruining) the globe and jettisoned its population for a little while as it attempted to clean up its mess.

Seven hundred years later, WALL*E is the remaining inhabitant, dutifully filling his days with trash duty, but developed enough to find other, more meaningful diversions. For example, he has adopted a pet cockroach (naturally), collects miscellaneous scraps and parts, and settles in from time to time with a Betamax version of “Hello Dolly”).

Thematically, the first 40 minutes or so is very similar to last year’s “I am Legend,” as a non-speaking WALL*E does just enough to occupy time, but is painfully lonely and just wants a hand (or synthetic replication thereof) to hold. Unlike “I am Legend,” “WALL*E” does not suck royally after that setup.

He is visited by an Extraterrestrial Vegitation Evaluator (EVE), which is a sleek new robot model sent to the planet in search of burgeoning life. EVE is like a new iPod to WALL*E’s cassette player, but regardless of format, the song remains the same – WALL*E is immediately smitten.

After a coy courting period (with lasers), WALL*E tags along on EVE’s spaceship, which is housed on a floating Earth, populated with gelatinous mounds of flesh that are the human race. No longer do people rely on such tired traditions as “walking,” they simply jet around their new home in personal Barc-o-loungers, communicate entirely through computer screens and happily subsist on whatever the Big Brother-like corporate owners of the ship (the same ones that spoiled the planet) tell them to.

To reveal more would spoil the wonder of “WALL*E.” It’s clear that the filmmakers in that coveted Pixar house have a passion for film as well as storytelling. From silent-era slapstick that would make Buster Keaton proud, to space journeys capable of bringing a tear to George Lucas’s eye, to nods of golden-age movie musicals, “WALL*E” serves as a loving, guided tour through the coveted vaults of cinematic history.

There are scenes within that will induce tears, but not because of maudlin plot contrivances that do everything but old an onion under your eyes. There are moments of ecstatic marvel and whimsy throughout that make this so much more than a just another celluloid babysitter for the kiddos.

And you can dispute or politicize the film’s dyspeptic world view all you want (though does anyone else see the irony of a film featuring a society of computer-enslaved blobs of humanity created by a computer animation studio that works for years on one project?), but in this increasingly heated political climate, there is a reason the word “change” is bandied about so often. As over-simplified as it may sound, “Wall*E” serves as an animated testament to our ability to do just that.

But just as the morbidly obese captain of the human cargo ship in “WALL*E” proves, it is only accomplished by a innate willingness to do so. It may all sound trite, but as the best films in our short cinematic history, “WALL*E” makes you believe that anything is possible.

P.S. Don’t arrive late or you will miss a wonderful Looney Tunes-era short called “Presto,” featuring a rabbit that could out-wascal Bugs Bunny

~ by usesoapfilm on June 30, 2008.

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