Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pixar Conquers The Universe

The real problem with Wall-E is that it can't possibly live up to expectations, can it?

Maybe. Right now, this latest flick from Pixar is hovering in IMDB's top 10 of all time. I assume this will settle over time. I've already said how excited I was to see this film.

The Flower had earned herself a trip to the movies and she picked this over Get Smart. (She'll have to work hard to get back to the movies before Get Smart leaves our preferred theater, though.) I don't blame her, though.

I mentioned in the last review that the Laemmele has a 2-for-1 deal for certain movies. They also have a Wednesday $4 deal, so the four of us getting in was $16. Even with $12 for refreshment, that's a pretty good deal.

Andrew Stanton, whose previous works are considered both among Pixar's weakest (A Bug's Life) and Pixar's strongest (Finding Nemo), tackles a whole bunch of trite and dystopic clich├ęs in this movie of a little garbage-bot who falls in love with a probe-bot on a trash-laden, dead Earth.

I mean, I grew up on environmental catastrophe movies, and the Earth-is-so-toxic-it's-unliveable thing is was old even when I was a kid. (Ark II anyone?) The earthican population is living in a nearby space station (2001 on steroids), though they have grown fat and infantile over the centuries as their robots do everything for them. (There are babies, intriguingly, but it's made pretty clear that humans never come into physical contact with each other.)

Actually, I got a serious Brave New World vibe off of it.

This really shouldn't have worked. Everything I know about kiddie-enviro flicks is that they're all preachy and about how bad Man is and so on. But it does work.

First of all, Wall-E and Eve are sort of--well, you know that lamp at the beginning of each Pixar movie? The Pixar mascot? This is them saying, "Yeah, we could make a whole movie starring that lamp and it would pwn!" This is basically a very good silent movie, though I don't think it's on a par with City Lights, necessarily.

The other reason it works is that it's so, so gentle. Humans have forgotten what it's like to be self-reliant. They aren't inherently lazy or bad, just, well, things happen. Granted, Wall-E and the strangely attractive Eve (? how is that possible?) are the most, eh, human characters in the show, apart from the increasingly deshiveled Fred Willard, but there's a kindness mixed in with some gentle slapstick that makes us root for the humans.

So, while we have the typical messages about rampant consumerism, pollution and--if I'm not mistaken, there are no polar regions left--global warming, the movie doesn't try to be about those things, and surely doesn't bludgeon you with them.

Thomas Newman provides a typically distinctinve score (called it in the first five minutes) that is both distinctly the work of the guy who did Finding Nemo and The Green Mile, and very unique to this film.

To top it all off, the movie comes in at 97 minutes and features a hilarious Pixar short at the front. And, of course, it's breathtaking, with hyper-real looking shots of Wall-E's garbage collecting and Hubble-worthy scenes of outer space.

John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy play the first two humans to wake up, with Jeff Garlin as the heroic captain who overcomes his tiny baby limb-limitations. As a special treat Sigourney Weaver--who played the crazy ship's voice in an episode of Futurama--plays the voice of the ship's computer in this film as well.

The Boy was curiously restrained in his approval at first. By the time we got home, though, he was asking about seeing it again, and when would it come out on DVD. There is no higher praise.

The Flower was quite pleased as well, as was Grandpa, who accompanied us at The Flower's request. Curiously, an older lady asked The Boy and The Flower what they liked, and I gather she didn't like what she called "the crazy parts". I was curious as to what those were, but whatever they were seemed to put her off so much that I didn't want to offend her by not knowing what (obviously!) they must have been.

It worked for us, though. I'd recommend it for anyone who didn't need dialogue in a movie. I do sort of pity the next Pixar flick--but I think that's going to be Toy Story 3, so it probably doesn't need my pity.

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