Tuesday, July 1, 2008

WALL-E - Kate's Perspective

I know, I know. I hate reviewing (or watching) over-hyped, extra-commercialized movies just as much as the next pretentious asshole. (And make no mistake, I am one, or I'd be telling you all how much I love Roadhouse--not for the reasons Swayze wants me to, but I love it nevertheless.) Plus, it's just way, way easier and more fun to write negative reviews, isn't it? There's much more colorful vocabulary available for crapping all over things than for praising them.
But in this case I just can't do it. We went to see WALL-E on Saturday night, the day after it opened. I expected to enjoy it, as generally (Cars notwithstanding) I love Pixar. What I did not expect was that I would be completely astonished by it. I suppose it makes sense; Finding Nemo was a masterpiece in its own right, and Andrew Stanton hasn't directed anything else since then. Like all the best directors and actors, he picks and chooses, taking on only the projects he thinks are worthwhile. Brad Bird, fellow CGI director, noted that the script wasn't easy, but the good folks at Pixar decided to give it a whirl and trust their audiences' intelligence.

And what a payoff! From the moment the movie began, I was hooked. There's no real dialogue for the first half-hour or so of the movie; it's just beeps and clicks between WALL-E and his pet cockroach, with the occasional burst of Hello Dolly thrown in (he's only got one movie, and he's a big fan). I won't go too heavily into the plot, since it's still brand-new and most people know what happens anyway. I'll just talk about what makes it wonderful.

First, while the movie is clearly a Shrek-style double-layer movie, with many jokes being just for adults and the characters serving to entertain kids, it didn't have the usual downfalls of that kind of film--in particular, crude bodily-function jokes mixed in with more sophisticated humor, or unnecessary slapstick. There was a lot of slapstick involved, yes, but it was more in the Charlie Chaplin school than the Three Stooges. It managed to do something rare: get kids and adults laughing at the same thing.

Second, this movie may be the first children's movie set in a truly dystopian future. It's bleak; the world is a trash heap and people have devolved into floating, boneless blobs. But the human spirit eventually prevails--an especially big accomplishment in a movie that's mainly about robots.

Third, the relationship between WALL-E and EVE was simply believable. It was more touching than it would have been if it took place between humans, because they could not speak to express their feelings, and communicated simply by gestures. You guys are going to make fun of me, but I was moved to tears several times during the movie, and not just near the end. When EVE fulfills her mission by finding a plant, she goes catatonic, incubating the plant and not responding to WALL-E's beeps and gestures. So WALL-E does his best to care for her until she wakes up; he tethers her to himself with a string of Christmas lights, stands with her in the rain and shields her with an umbrella, and takes her out to watch the sunset. When EVE awakes back aboard the Axiom, the space station that all of humanity lives on, the captain plays a hologram of the recordings her security camera made while she slept. EVE sees what WALL-E did for her, and looks down at her hand, realizing that all along he was trying to hold it. It's incredibly touching and not at all cheesy, particularly because WALL-E has no other motivations; he's just a lonely little robot who's found the only friend he's ever had.

Please go to see WALL-E. Don't buy the toys or anything, because I'm still bothered by the blatant commercialism of it, but show Pixar that their gamble was right--that their audiences can be trusted to think for themselves and understand without being told everything explicitly. If George Lucas had made this movie, some annoying talking robot would have been narrating everything. If Michael Bay had made it, there would have been less mechanical hand-holding and more mechanical arms getting blown off. But fortunately, Andrew Stanton made it, and so we just have WALL-E and his cockroach, beeping showtunes and rolling dutifully into the dust.

Final rating: A+

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