Pixar has always made movies geared towards a young audience but with parents in mind. Between the sight gags and the talking animals, toys and monsters are witty allusions to other films, jabs at pop culture, and a keen analysis of everyday life. Its a great formula to keep everyone entertained, and ensures that the cutting edge animation studio always enjoys critical claim as well as box-office zeal for its blockbuster releases.
Wall-E possesses a similar mixture of the puerile and the profound. What is assumed to be the last “Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class” robot scours the Earth each day in search of something new. As part of a robot series designed to help fight the escalating levels of pollution, the Wall-E unit scuttles around the post-human, post-apocalyptic, dust-ridden planet, turning piles of debris into building blocks that he assembles into buildings.
If it’s not evident from this preliminary description, Wall-E focuses on the mature side of the magical Pixar equation. As glorious and hilarious as the slapstick is, in between every zap of lighting and zany robot is a plot chock full of social commentary and depictions of the human condition. This is all the more powerful considering it is done through a tiny mechanical robot devoid of facial expressions.
It has long been said that body language makes up the majority of communication. For any doubters of this theory, watch Wall-E closely. With minimal talking in the first half of the movie, all of the humor and emotions are conveyed through the actions and sound effects of our main character. Its more reminiscent of Saturday morning Tom and Jerry cartoons than Buzz and Woodys wisecracking in Toy Story.
Writer and director Andrew Stanton and co-writer Pete Docter have produced a masterpiece of a script. Robbed of executing his primary directive (the humans are all long gone), Wall-E ends up becoming mankind’s biggest fan and most devoted historian. In between packing and stacking garbage, he gleans items that interest him, taking them back to his home-cum-museum every night.
As a robot with no social contact and little knowledge of mankind, Wall-E is able to examine everything through the lens of an alien: What is the functionality of a brassiere? Which is more useful – a sturdy jewelry box or the shiny rock inside it? Wall-E stumbles across an old VHS copy of Hello, Dolly!, and soon he’s sighing and wondering why he can’t enjoy the company of someone to sing, dance, and hold hands with.
Wall-E finds a bit of an answer to his questions as well as a noticeable challenge to his safety when the sleek EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) shows up. The film begins to open up into a quirky romantic comedy of sorts as Wall-E attempts to help and court EVE while she remains set on her own mysterious directive. Blending comedy with romance and sci-fi, Wall-E comes out with the best of the genres, progressing effortlessly through an exciting storyline.
There are just as many themes as there are genres, and by the time Wall-E and Eve make it to a spaceship full of fat, lazy, ignorant humans the post-apocalyptic has swirled in with issues of reckless pollution, man versus machine, and the origin and fate of mankind. The humans inhabiting the spaceship colony enjoy a sort of suspended animation: they are transported along set lines, are fed via high-calorie shakes (to minimize the work involved in chewing), and are easily influenced. (Cue the social comment, but its on the money, and even brave enough to swipe at the audience in the cinema themselves.)
It almost goes without saying that each new Pixar movie will push the envelope of computer animation. Wall-E is the best looking of the bunch so far, and there is no end to the amount of detail included in each frame. Even such small movements as Wall-E shuffling his hands together emote such grace and humility so as to instantly absorb you into his world despite his lack of vocab. The film is charming, tightly-written, intelligent and also a fair way off the usual formula in its storyline. Wall-E is, without doubt, Pixar’s best to date: no small feat for a company with such a grand track record.