Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Movie Review: WALL*E

The folks at Pixar have done it again. WALL*E is a work of art, both technically and as a story.

But first, the short!

Like the short in Ratatouille, this short has no dialogue. It does, however, involve a rabbit, a carrot, a magician, and two magic hats. The rabbit is a cute, white bunny who is definitely not shy or retiring. He knows what he wants and he's going to get it.

The magician, on the other hand, has an act to perform.

Whomever wrote this short was definitely a Warner Brothers fan. There's more than a little Bugs Bunny here! In fact, at one point the orchestra breaks into a song I know was used in a Bugs and Elmer episode.

I like Pixar's tradition of opening the movie with a short (shades of my childhood when every Disney film was a double feature-plus-short) and I hope they consider releasing the shorts on a DVD at some point.

Okay, on to the main feature.

Much has been written about the storyline of WALL*E in other reviews. And strong stories are a Pixar trademark. So I'm going to spend a little more time on the ambiance of the movie.

It opens with a song from Hello, Dolly! Cornelius is telling Barnaby there's a whole world out there beyond Yonkers and breaks into the song, Put on Your Sunday Clothes. That song and one other, Dancing, serve as touchpoints, appearing at significant moments in the film.

With eyes shaped like binoculars and a body that's basically a metal box, WALL*E is no mere machine. Although his job is to compact trash into blocks and then stack it into tall, imposing structures, he also collects odd objects: a garbage can lid, rubber duckies, a Rubik's cube. And he has a pet. ten minutes in (or less), I forgot I was watching an animated feature. WALL*E is a character, with personality and feelings.

The humans don't appear until more than halfway through the film, and--with one interesting exception--they definitely look animated. But it looks like a deliberate choice and isn't jarring. (John Ratzenberger keeps up his string of voicing characters, by the way.)

The other major character is another robot: EVE. For much of the movie, she's an egg, but as the action unfolds, she develops a full-fledged persona.

There are a lot of references to pop culture as well: the Blue Danube Waltz plays at an appropriate time and there is a steward robot named "Gofer." I probably missed as much as I caught--which means we're going to have to buy the DVD and watch it again. :)

Hubs and I saw this at a Sunday afternoon matinee and there were plenty of kids in the audience. However, during the climax, the theater was dead quiet. Not easy to do, but Pixar did it, just like the best Disney movies do. The technical quality of the film is amazing, combining some "live action" with animation seamlessly. It all fit. The character voices didn't overwhelm the animated characters (a pet peeve of mine with Dreamworks animations), but complemented them.

Yes, there is a social message. But I thought the message didn't overwhelm the story and the ending was hopeful and uplifting.

For the ending credits, Pixar used several different styles of art, from cave dwellings to Egyptian hieroglyphics to Impressionism to Van Gogh--kind of a mini art history. I wouldn't have caught it unless the woman behind me mentioned it to her son. I thought it was rather clever.

On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party


Anonymous said...

PIXAR has already released a DVD of 13 of their shorts, including Bouding, On Man Band, Lifted, and Jack-Jack Attack.

Pixar Short Films Collection. Target carries it.

March Hare said...

Kewl! I'll have to look for it. Thanks!

Richard Wetzel MD said...

I agree that Wall-E had positive aspects but it presents the most disturbing vision of the future with earth as the most enormous trash dump with no vegetation save one small plant and people who are so fat and lazy they can't walk. It is a terribly dark presentation of the future that will deeply disturb many children. You should not have given such a piece of propaganda your stamp of approval no matter how many slick distractions were place over the underlying themes.