After scoring big with Ratatouille, 2007’s best reviewed film and one of my personal favorites as well, Pixar ups the ante with WALL-E and tries to go for the repeat. Do they succeed? Well, ask just about anyone from the general public or the majority of the critics and they will tell you yes. But not me. Hang on, hang on. Before you nail me to the cross, it should be said that I liked the movie. Keyword: liked. While many will have the joy of discovering what they will think is one of the great animated features of all time, WALL-E just didn’t feel special to me by the time the credits rolled.
Set in a time frame of over 700 years from now, Earth has become uninhabitable and abandoned. This is because we as humans have trashed the planet to the point where life can no longer be sustained. You can put the blame on an uber-conglomerate known as Buy-N-Large, who at one time made just about every product you could think of (It’s never a good sign when one corporation controls everything). While we decide to kick back and relax for the next seven centuries and grow into fat tubs of lard in floating chairs, we leave the cleaning up of Earth to the Waste Allocation Load Lifters, Earth Class. After 700 years the only functioning robot is our new lovable hero, WALL-E, and by this time a return to Earth seems unlikely considering that most humans aren’t even aware of their home planet’s existence.
So WALL-E is left by himself with nothing to do but compact an endless pile of trash and stack it. But after 700 years, anything would get to feeling lonely. That’s the genius of Pixar; to take an animal or an inanimate object and turn it into a fully flourished character, one that we can root for and empathize with. Enter EVE, a high tech robot sent to Earth to check for signs of life to see if it’s okay to return. WALL-E is instantly head over heels in love at first sight. When the two find plant life, they head for the intergalactic freighter that humans call home with news of the discovery.
For a long time, I did think WALL-E was going to end up a great movie while watching it. But unfortunately, I thought the movie fell flat in the third act. A plot revelation, which I will try to tip-toe around but probably fail, raised a question. If humans are unaware of their origins, and Buy-N-Large, who still seems to control everything, has no interest in returning to Earth, then why was EVE sent there in the first place? Yes, the movie is entertaining, and often quite charming and funny, but I can’t get past this question. Maybe I missed something (if I did and you have a thought as to what it might be, please don’t hesitate to let me know). After I thought about this, the rest of the film just didn’t awe me, and it didn’t help that the climax felt messy and rushed. I don’t think this script is even close to as good or as smart as the one Brad Bird wrote to Ratatouille.
But I still recommend the film because WALL-E is certainly not without its moments of brilliance. The animation practically sets a new standard. The film is audacious, imaginative and idealistic, even though it doesn’t hit a home run. When WALL-E and EVE are on screen together, they instigate wonderment and it’s really quite impressive how Pixar was able to pull of such great romantic scenes by just using robots. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I would like to see these guys try a live-action picture. They could probably do better than most of what hits multiplexes week in and week out. Or maybe it’s best to learn from these guys. For much of this film, there’s not much secret as to why it works so well when it wants to. They simply go back to the basics, or in this case follow the guidelines handed down by such inspirational works as the Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin films of old (WALL-E is a reminder of how great scenes can be forged without dialogue), and a handful of sci-fi masterpieces, while throwing in some of their own stuff to liven things up along the way. WALL-E is fun a ride, although sometimes a bumpy one.