Starring: Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Fred Willard, Benn Butt
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Written by: Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon (screenplay)
Runtime: 98 mins
DVD Release: November 18, 2008
There are few names in the film industry that generate more excitement than ‘Pixar’. The CGI animation studio behind hits like Ratatouille (it’s a French dish, but the movie stars rats), Cars, and Finding Nemo has been driving kids bonkers for years (since 1995’s Toy Story, in fact). But, perhaps Pixar’s greatest achievement through all that time has been in making films parents actually enjoy. Like television’s finest animated offering, The Simpsons, many of Pixar’s films work on several levels, providing slapstick, goofball humor for the kids while at the same time subtly infusing jokes with social commentaries recognizable by someone over 21. Considering the fact that we regularly review films that fail to adequately entertain the average adult alone (ahem, Max Payne), it’s rather remarkable that a movie studio like Pixar succeeds in making kids and their parents laugh side-by-side, sometimes at the same joke but for entirely different reasons.
Enter Wall-E, Pixar’s latest offering in a line that is steadily establishing itself as a genuine dynasty in (animated) film. Released to theatres last June and starring some fairly recognizable voices, including Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin, and Cheers’ John Ratzenberger, the film was an instant success (for the record, 96% of Rotten Tomatoes’ online reviewers filed in favour, with imdb.com rating it #39 of all time).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/images/26470/medium/1_walle2.jpg[/img]But, does it live up to all that hype? Well, like most Pixar films it simply drips with the sappy, cute, heart-warming junk we’ve come to expect the last thirteen years or so. But, does it satisfy the average dude – the guy with the home theatre system, the gaming console, and the big screen TV? Does it deserve playtime on a stage testosterone built?
First of all, it depends on whether or not you’ve successfully completed a Pixar film before. If you ably navigated the cuteness and heart-tugging moments in Monsters, Inc., for example, you’re probably going to be able to make it through this one. However, if you struggled with Toy Story – which by comparison is Pixar’s boys’ club offering – this is going to be a very perilous journey through time and space.
Simply put, this is by far the ‘cutest’ of Pixar’s films I have ever seen. Unlike Toy Story, which relied on the fantastic voice acting of lovable Tom Hanks and the quasi-funny Tim Allen, dialogue is put on the back-burner in Wall-E. Set nearly a thousand years in the future, its main star is a garbage-collecting robot on a desolate, long-abandoned earth. Yeah, I know, sounds engaging, depressing even – but this is no Mad Max (or for you gamers, Fallout). Instead, despite the almost complete absence of life (Wall-E’s bestest pal is a cockroach) and rusted horizon, Pixar’s protagonist is still the happiest little robot alive (a word carefully chosen). He watches ‘50s musicals, plays with old fire hydrants, and keeps an extensive collection of knick-knacks. My mother would be jealous.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/images/26470/medium/1_walle4.jpg[/img]So, what’s a lovable little robot doing in a place like that? Well, unfortunately the earth is not such a great place to live seven or eight hundred years from now. It appears all that automobile exhaust (funny, wasn’t their last film about cute little cars?), industrial waste, and mindless stockpiling of garbage has made our world, well, uninhabitable. Humans – the very rich ones, we assume – take off into space on luxurious intergalactic cruise ships, complete with robotic maids, cooks, wheelchairs, police officers – in fact, the robots do pretty much everything. As a result, humans get pretty hefty living up in the stars, munching on space doodles while poor old Wall-E goes about cleaning up their backyards.
The difference between this and other Pixar films is that, well, Wall-E doesn’t have all that much to say. He mostly speaks in toddler-esque blips and squeaks, enough only to get my girlfriend (and yours, too, I’m betting) to melt with delight. However, much of the film is spent following this cutesy little robot and his cutesy little robot friends around earth and giant luxury space ships getting into trouble with other, less-cutesy robots. The actors are certainly bit-players here (Ratzenberger has about three whole lines).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/images/26470/medium/1_walle3.jpg[/img]So, is it good? Yes. Will kids love it? Most certainly. Will the average home theatre junkie stomach it? Probably. But, it’s not going to rock your world by any means. There is some great social commentary here – the idea that fat humans would ruin their world and then saunter across the universe getting fatter is a genius formula one part Super Size Me and one part An Inconvenient Truth – but it’s just a little bit too cutesy at times. Whereas Toy Story and The Incredibles relied on talented voice actors and some very witty dialogue to rope in the older crowd (a 20-something friend of mine saw Toy Story 2 in theatres three times), Pixar relies almost entirely on visuals in this one. With that said, this is a gorgeous film, with deep colours and fantastic landscapes that beg you to spend the extra ten bucks for the Blu-ray disc.
As nice as that is, for the average home theatre junkie this is probably one you’ll want to save for the kids or a desperate attempt to make up with the girlfriend/wife. It’s oozingly cute and sometimes quite funny. You’ll have to decide whether the latter trumps the former.