I never went to see Ratatouille, since the premise didn’t appeal to me and something about Brad Bird’s approach to story construction puts me off (The Incredibles could have been a great film, but it’s rather an unfocused hodge-podge), but tonight we resumed riding the Pixar bandwagon by going to see WALL-E.
It’s a cute film. It does a terrific job of portraying the eponymous character’s unending life as nearly the last living thing on a used-up, abandoned Earth. Without dialogue, but with plenty of body language, WALL-E conveys his begrudging acceptance of his workaday life, with his hopes and dreams behind it. And when the more advanced robot Eve shows up on a mission, his realization that his dreams could come true is quite poignant. From there the film turns into a madcap adventure as we find out what happened to humanity, and WALL-E and Eve try to complete Eve’s mission and figure each other out (not necessarily in that order.
The film is at its best when it’s dealing with the robots – and there are plenty of them – but at its worst when dealing with the humans, and what they’ve become after 700 years. Okay, it’s a cautionary tale about out consumer culture, but it has all the finesse of a sledgehammer to the forehead, with people having become obese and slothful, entirely reliant on stimuli from the computer network. It’s not like it’s particularly new, either; except for the fat angle, it’s pretty much the same premise as that of Adventure Comics #379, which was published around the time I was born. I think if they’d come up with a more nuanced explanation for humanity’s absence it would have been a much better film.
Still, the robots are at the front and center, and that makes it a fun film despite its flaws. WALL-E is a terrific-looking creation, expressive and sympathetic, and Eve isn’t far behind him. And the film is touching and funny and exciting as WALL-E and Eve try to get together. The animation is stunning, of course, and the music is very distinctive compared to earlier Pixar films. Overall, a fun film.
Topping it off – actually leading it off – is the short before the film, “Presto”, which is absolutely hilarious, as good as any old Warner Bros cartoon. Sometimes it seems like the shorts are better than the features!