Wall-E Review – Animation with an Agenda ” width=”560″/>
Pixar has done it again — well, sort of. The first 40 or so minutes of Wall-E are absolutely glorious, a triumph of animation, art direction and wordless storytelling, as bewitching as anything produced by Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. But once humans and hot-button topics are added to the mix, Wall-E starts to self-destruct.
The title robot (who looks like a cross between Number Five from Short Circuit and Bob from The Black Hole ) is the last of his kind, a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class who is single-handedly trying to clean up our toxic planet, abandoned centuries earlier after we, literally, made a mess of it. Mountains of garbage glitter and gleam next to deserted glass skyscrapers, and often, it’s difficult to tell the buildings from the junk. Wall-E — an eccentric and lonely machine with a soft spot for the film version of Hello, Dolly! — sifts through the refuse carefully, rescuing treasures from the trash. A Rubik’s cube, plastic garden gnomes, Christmas lights and other tchotchkes decorate his dusty domicile, which he shares with a hilariously indestructible cockroach. He goes about his duties with unquestioning commitment and a jolly attitude, yet he longs for a close encounter of some kind. Enter Eve, a sleek probe sent to find signs of organic life. Wall-E is, of course, smitten at first sight, but will her mission interfere with their relationship?
R2-D2. Replicants. Data. The little boy in AI . Machines that develop feelings are a tried and true scifi staple. But even though Wall-E is covering familiar ground, the little bugger is so goofy, so idiosyncratic, so human, it’s impossible not to be charmed by him. His wooing of Eve is delightful, and their blossoming romance is profoundly moving.
Then the plot kicks in — or should I say — the point. Because like all Pixar flicks, Wall-E
has an agenda. Recycling’s important. Go green. Stop spending so much
time on the Internet so you can get out and live. All fantastic
sentiments to be sure, but shouldn’t they be delivered with some
finesse? Once Eve and Wall-E make their way to the Axiom — a space
cruiser carrying the last remnants of humanity — the movie delivers
its morals in ALL CAPS. We’ve become a sorry lot: Too fat to move, too
addicted to technology to really connect, too pampered to be
productive. The entire sequence on the ship plays out like a G-rated
version of Mike Judge’s underrated scifi satire, Idiocracy , without his scathing wit or wicked insights.
Because it’s a family flick, Wall-E can only get so dark. Yet
tacking on the inevitable optimistic ending seems disingenuous. We
destroyed ourselves through waste and greed. How can one little robot,
even one as plucky as Wall-E, teach us to respect the environment and
ourselves? Well frankly, he can’t. And that outcome, the one where we
all die from our own stupidity, is the way the movie should end, with
Wall-E and Eve dancing on our well-deserved graves. That’s how Isaac
Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke would have finished it. But that wouldn’t
make a fun ride at Disney World — or make a killing at the box office.
And this doesn’t make Wall-E a failure, but it does make it slick entertainment instead of the profound piece of art it could have been.