July 4, 2008

When i started this blog in April, I was under the impression that four stars would be as high as I needed to go.  I should have realized that the geniuses at Pixar Animation would find away to make me readjust my ratings.  And boy did they ever with WALL*E.  So readers and movie makers be warned.  I am NOT going to use the Masterpiece rating very often.  The movie I see and review is going to have to earn this, and earn it well.

And boy, does WALL*E deserve to be called a masterpiece.  When I first saw TOY STORY in 1995, I was thrilled with the attention to detail they gave that movie, with the cracked paint in the house, the dust, and the realistic look of the toys.  WALL*E’s attention to detail makes their first effort look like a film school project.  I had to keep reminding myself that the junk-filled wasteland our robot hero has to clean up was all created by computers.  The outer space scenes are nothing to sneeze at either.  I had to catch my breath when WALL*E is holding onto the probe ship that is bringing his robot girlfriend EVE back to the mother ship passes through our Solar System.  It’s nothing short of magic.  I also like to think that the animators had fun imagining what we would look like if robots did everything for us, and I think they had fun designing some of the robots servicing the mother ship as well.

The story is also, in my humble opinion, one of the most serious topics the funsters at Pixar have ever tackled.  The first 35 minutes or so show us what happens when we consume beyond our means.  Actually, there is a company that was partly responsible for the condition of the Earth at the start of the movie:  BUY-N-LARGE (run by CEO Fred Willard).  It turns out that BUY-N-LARGE got so big, and their waste got so out of control, that people had to leave home aboard elegant spaceships.  Now WALL*E is left to clean up.  Fortunately, it’s not all sombre and silence, although there is a lot of silence in the first act of this movie.  WAKLL*E’s only companion is a cockroach that follows WALL*E like a dog.  While WALL*E goes about his job, he’ll occasionally stop and pick up something to add to his collection of knick-knacks, the most memorable being a hubcap, which later figures into WALL*E dancing to Jerry Herman’s “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from HELLO, DOLLY (which you’ll hear time and again during this movie, but there’s not a thing wrong with that), and a brasierre in a funny visual joke that should have been kept out of the previews, but again, I’m not complaining. Speaking of HELLO, DOLLY as this is WALL*E’s favorite movie (and the only one he has), you’ll see and hear “Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment” at some critical points in the film.

The film starts to gain even more momentum when the probe robot EVE comes to Earth to seek signs of vegetation.  She’s not too thrilled to meet WALL*E at first, practically blasting him at every chance.  EVE may be not much taller than WALL*E, but she packs a mean laser.  That doesn’t stop WALL*E from trying to woo EVE, and when she (it? oh heck she!) finally does warm to WALL*E, thus begins a relationship that gets deep and complicated really quickly.  This is especially true when EVE discovers WALL*E’s little plant.  For EVE, this is her signal that Earth is once again suitable for humans, and she must report this to the mother ships Captain.  WALL*E manages to hitch a ride, and from this point, the story goes into warp drive as EVE and WALL*E try to help each other and get to the Captain.

One of the things I noticed while watching WALL*E is how many science fiction/fantasy movies it reminded me of.  WALL*E himself reminded me a little bit of Number 5 from 1986’s SHORT CIRCUIT (another great movie that shows us what happens when a robot gets a personality).  The robots going haywire on the mothership, and the robot vehicles reminded me of I, ROBOT from 2004.  And, as you might have guessed, there are references to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and not just in the music either.

In conclusion, I must say that when the Academy Awards are handed out next Spring, don’t be surprised to see WALL*E get a nod or two.  At this point, I honestly don’t know if Pixar will be able to top themselves after this-it’s going to be tough.  As usual, before the feature, there’s a new Pixar short .  This one is a particular scream, as it involves a magician with a pair of magic hats, who forgets to feed his rabbit, with hilarious consequences when the magician goes onstage.  All I can say is Tex Avery would have been proud!


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