I haven't posted a movie review for a while. Mostly I have been putting them on my Rotten Tomatoes site. But this one was too good to not comment.
I don't always want to write my review of good movies right away. I want to dwell on them and twirl them around in my head before I try to distill them into a short(ish) posting. But then I'm torn when I see a fantastic moie because the storyteller in me wants to chat with someone about the piece of art I just saw. I guess waiting until the next morning is enough of a compromise.
Sooner or later, I guess we will stop being surprised by Pixar's genius. I keep hearing people say, "Sooner or later they have to make a flop. They can't keep this up forever." You know what that is starting to sound like? It sounds like sore losers, or people who just cannot enjoy beauty without trying to destroy it. When I walked out of WALL-E yesterday afternoon, I asked my wife, "What do you think the people who make all the OTHER animated films think when they walk out of a Pixar movie? Can they possibly feel good about what they are creating? Did the makers of Barnyard walk out of WALL-E and feel like they had done a good job on their film?"
SIDE NOTE: The animated short Presto was funnier and better made than just about any comedy I've seen in the last ten years. I laughed so hard that I wished they had made a full length version of it. It was in the legacy of Bugs Bunny and the truly classic Looney Tunes - even included a rabbit. If it doesn't win Best Animated Short, I give up on the Oscars.
Pixar long crossed the line of making kids films. Sure, their films are unbelievably popular with kids. And my kids loved WALL-E, running right home to start "playing WALL-E" (which largely consisted of hauling their toys around in boxes and dumping them behind the chairs). But they became full fledged artists with the beauty of Cars. And they proved they can compete with "grown up films" when they were nominated for the Oscar for Best Screenplay for Ratatouille. But, with WALL-E, they went farther. I really think that if there is any justice in the Academy of Awards, WALL-E will be up for Best Picture.
You may laugh to yourself, but I can say this. I love movies. I watch a LOT of movies. And I have only found myself sitting quiet at the end of a movie, just thinking about what I saw a handful of times. That is when I know a movie really hit me where it matters. Henry V, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, The Matrix, Batman Begins. Those are some of the ones that left me speechless and emotional. WALL-E did the same thing to me.
We have gotten so accustomed to the gorgeous animation that it isn't even surprising now. But the thing that I can't get over is the STORYTELLING. Pixar writes amazing stories. This one was so layered and intricate. It was a powerful environmental message, urging us to be more careful about our planet. It was a cautionary warning against materialist excess. It was an unbelievable love story - unlike anything I've seen in a while. I was a reminder that doing what you are told sometimes challenges doing what is right. It was a call to humans to be more than just robots - and to stop living behind screens, missing the beauty and joy of life all around us.
At the heart of the movie is WALL-E, a trash disposal robot left on Earth to clean up after the humans. Supposedly, once the robots cleaned the planet, the humans would return. But that, as we see from the opening zooming shots, is impossible. He is the last working robot and he spends his days working, exploring, interacting with his pet roach, and learning about love - all while being lonely. One day, EVE arrives on a huge, loud, disruptive spaceship. She is looking for something. WALL-E is smitten. EVE soon begins to grow fond of him and his quirks - developing a few of her own. Once her mission is completed, she is picked up and WALL-E cannot bear to see her go, hitching an intergalactic ride.
We soon see that the robots are more human than the humans - giving in to power lust and ego, sectoring off those who are different, developing consciences. The humans have become robots - blindly taking orders, living behind screens, losing their humanity. The story was powerful and convicting. It showed how people are going to be in trouble if we continue to live like we do - addicted to "stuff", hiding from interaction, ignoring warning signs, killing our emotions.
Removing all of that, you are left with a passionate and beautiful love story. You see WALL-E being the kind of person we should all be. He loves life, enjoys his work, find pleasure in the little things. And when he finds someone to love, he does it with everything he is. He loves her unconditionally. He wants her to be the best she can be, even if that means without him. His relentless and pure love affects everyone he sees. I know, as we saw it played out, there were moments where I felt myself wishing I could be more like that with the people I hold dear. I misted up several times as the movie built to its climax. And I felt something that most movies, especially summer ones, think they can do without - genuine emotion. I saw it in my
kids as they responded to scenes.
It was a fabulous experience, and one that made me think about a lot of things. WALL-E is a classic, powerful film. I haven't seen anything like it for a long time. I wish every filmmaker would see it just to be reminded of how films are supposed to be made. Animated or not, WALL-E was a true winner.