Dir: Andrew Stanton
Star: (voice) Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger

Trash City
Top 10:2008
You have to be impressed with any big-budget, Hollywood film which decides to discard dialogue almost entirely for the first half, in favor of depicting the life of the last sentient life-form left on Earth, seven centuries into the future. That's WALL-E (Burtt), a cleaning robot, that spends its days in the Sisyphean task of trying to clean up the mess mankind left behind - and which caused humanity to abandon the planet. His sole companion [and I'll use "his," even though the sexuality is uncertain, especially given WALL-E's obsessive neatness and fondness for showtunes] is a cockroach; hardly great company there. But then, out of the blue descends EVE (Knight), another robot, sent back by the now far-distant population, to see if their home planet is now inhabitable once more. WALL-E sees this as the chance to have the relationship he has always wanted; EVE, however, is more intent on her mission...

From here spirals off an eco-conscious tale, with people (when WALL-E finally encounters them) having degenerated into blobs barely capable of walking. Yet, the touch is light enough that it doesn't seem preachy or condescending and the film can be enjoyed for what it is: thoroughly cute, beautifully rendered and wonderfully imaginative, to the point that the lead's lack of a voice is no more an issue than in the best works of Chaplin or Keaton, even if those films were made in an era when sound was more or less unavailable. A difference is that here, sound is used to its full extent, with bleeps and squawks demonstrating admirably how well a film can succeed without the burden of speech. If it falls fractionally short of the jewels in Pixar's crown - Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo - in part, because WALL-E bears a disturbing resemblance to the star of Short Circuit, it's a marked improvement over the largely-forgettable Cars and unappealing Ratatouille. Stanton is clearly the heir to John Lasseter as the go-to guy at Pixar, and may even have surpassed his mentor in overall quality of output.

[December 2008]

I *want* one...
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