“Wall•E” is Pixar’s most creative and original product to date, and that’s saying something given that the company previously gave us “Cars,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles.”
Too bad it’s also the studio’s least entertaining computer-graphics imagery-fest, a densely structured fable that may unite parents and children in their head-shaking disbelief.
The film’s anti-consumerism stance will win it some admirers, but ultimately, its storytelling is as clunky as its rickety hero.
Said hero is Wall•E, a garbage robot working tirelessly to compact all the trash on Earth roughly 700 years in the future.
The only problem is, there’s a whole lotta trash and no one around to notice his hustle. Humanity has turned Mother Earth into one giant junkyard. Wall•E is virtually the last remaining entity on the planet, and he’s oh, so lonely. He even watches a VHS version of “Hello Dolly!” for company, dancing along with the film’s actors as best as his robotic parts will allow.
One day, a spaceship arrives, bringing a svelte white robot named Eve to scour the planet for … something. Wall•E introduces himself, and after some clumsy bonding, he follows Eve back to her spaceship.
The duo end up on a space-station refuge for humans who fled Earth when the garbage levels rose to unlivable proportions.
Do you miss Nemo and company yet? There’s too much other information to explain in such a short space, but suffice to say the film treats our capitalist system as the Earth’s ultimate sin. (But don’t let that stop you from buying Wall•E mugs and T-shirts.)
There’s nothing wrong with a message movie, even one aimed at the younger generation, but why did “Wall•E” have to be so mechanical, so illogical? To take but one example, Fred Willard turns up in a cameo as the Earth’s last president, or rather CEO, before humanity split the scene. Inexplicably, Mr. Willard’s character is the only live-action human character in the film. The others are depicted in standard animated fashion.
For a while, “Wall•E” seems like the latest marvel from the minds at Pixar. The film’s opening moments could stand tall against the silent movie era’s best shorts. Wall•E’s wordless daily rounds are priceless. He’s a deft physical comic, and his expressive eyes make our hearts break over and again. The animators delight in Wall•E’s attempts to ape human qualities - but that’s about as much humanity as director-co-writer Andrew Stanton brings to the film.
Yes, “Wall•E” is a wonder to behold, visually. The animators introduce us to a biologically barren wasteland piled high with trash in the early scenes, and the effect is a far cry from the cheery landscapes seen in previous animated efforts.
In the end, however, it boils down to a film about robots - and all the whirring, spinning and clanking is just so much white noise if the story doesn’t grab us.
“Wall•E” is preceded by a new animated short called “Presto” that features a delightful duel between a magician and his rabbit. While “Wall•E” spends 90-plus minutes trying to find a spark, “Presto” does the trick in less than six.
CREDITS: Directed by Andrew Stanton. Original story by Mr. Stanton and Pete Docter. Original score by Thomas Newman.
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
WEB SITE: https://disney.go.com/disneypictures/wall-e
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS