MPAA Rating: G for general audiences
Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Run Time: 97 minutes
By golly, the strong, silent type just got a new standard -- and he cleans, too!
Wall-E, the title character of Pixar's latest, is a 'bot from the wrong side of the galaxy with dirt under his fingernails -- um, trash-scooper claws -- and a dreamy hope to find the kind of love you see in the movies. Okay, one movie: Hello, Dolly.
Eve's an upper-crust automaton with an iPod's sexy sheen, an advanced operating system, and a blaster arm she fires like Dirty Harry on a bad day. She's only got mind for her mission because she hasn't quite learned how to love.
At his solar-powered core, Wall-E -- a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class -- is a lover, not a fighter. And at its center, this Pixar gem -- which defies you to think of anything like it before -- is all about love.
But the closest the film comes to flowers and chocolates is the budding romance between Wall-E and Eve -- and there's so much more going on in this movie. Admittedly, it's a little cynical, with a soft, gooey center. Wall-E is the kind of parable that makes the audience afraid to lose the really good stuff, in favor of more ... well, stuff. You can't help but feel tugged by a feeling of, oh my, what are we doing?
We've seen Pixar's rat's-eye perspective of Paris, a kids' toy chest, an undersea society, and a rusted-out Route 66-style town. Heck, they even made a metropolis for monsters look like a decent place to live. But Earth 800 years from now? Not so nice. Trash piles are skyscraper-high, filled with every non-necessity money can buy -- Rubik's Cubes, bobblehead dogs, and singing fish (the Impulse Buy Heard Round the World.)
It's all humans' fault -- apparently we bought and we bought 'til we couldn't buy no more. Then we ditched the planet for a five-year cruise in space while a fleet of Wall-Es started cleaning up after us. Going a little Gilligan's Island, the five-year tour became a 700-year one, and back on earth, all the Wall-Es have been shut down, save for our title character. He happily works alongside a cockroach pal while collecting artifacts of our forgotten society and longing for a hand to hold.
It's a sad view of Earth, one that makes you want to ditch next weekend's shopping trip to "pick up a few things." The thing is, the space cruise is no paradise, either.
On the Axiom, it's a beautiful 72 degrees at all times and no one has to lift a finger. But the neatness of space (all the trash gets unloaded into the Milky Way), is far from pretty. Humans have built up walls around them -- both physical and virtual -- slurping their meals, never setting foot on the ground, idly chatterboxing to each other on screens. They coast on sunchairs that act as blinders to the world around them -- "We have a pool?" is a running joke. In fact, those schooled in the birds and bees wonder how the Axiom has any babies aboard, given that passengers don't so much as make eye contact let alone ... you know.
Like all of Pixar's flicks, it's hard to find flaw with Wall-E. The studio is at the top of its game -- okay, any game in town -- when it comes to visuals, story, the sheer loveable-ness of the characters. The question is whether you want to dwell on any flaws of your own.
With the same comic turns as Charlie Chaplin questioning the industrial age in Modern Times, Wall-E questions our information and excess age -- without saying a word. After all, a monumental monologue would just be more stuff we don't need.
Kids Will Like:
Young or old, good slapstick is a thing of beauty, and the movie packs plenty of laughs thanks to Wall-E's mannerisms and a repair ward of misfit robots. Kids really enjoyed Eve's be-weaponed right arm -- Jarett, 8, liked when Eve went all Angelina Jolie-as-an-assassin, shooting the sign alerting Axiom passengers to her and Wall-E's rogue robot status. And, they loved watching Wall-E's machinations of his drab daily existence on earth: "I liked when they showed how bored he was. He's kind of like my dad, gets up in the morning, goes to work and repeats the same pattern of life every day," said Devyn, 10. Don't worry, parents, they liked the lessons, too. Ana, 12, learned two things: "Robots are going to control the world" and "If you don't take care of the earth, it's going to get pretty ugly."
Parents Will Like:
9-to-5'ers will identify with Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") as the cruise ship's captain who longs for a break from routine on his robot-steered ship. One mom, Cindy, said the movie inspired her to find an environmental organization to join with her kids. "I want to get them out there, planting trees, and I hope it gets other parents doing it too." The film's reminder of the important stuff also hits home. Adults might "forget" to turn their cell phone on when leaving the theater and feel a fresh surge of uninterrupted joy at the little hand holding their own.