Today my wife and I went to see Pixar's Wall-E, the latest computer animated adventure from the people who made The Incredibles, Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Pixar has been creating inventive family entertainment for over a decade now with a focus on simply told stories that are as character based and visually ground breaking as possible for all ages film goers. Wall-E is a continuation on these themes and even adds to their repertoire of tricks.
The film starts with a short that I think is called Presto. Presto is done in a classic Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes format involving a Magician who wants to pull the Rabbit out of the hat and the pain the Bunny Rabbit causes the Magician for not feeding him. The look of the bit had that classic Opera house staging that you would see in old Looney Tunes clips and a lot of cartoonish slapstick ensues. Presto was a great start to the show and is worth seeing on its own.
Wall-E began and was immediately marked by it's desolate, lonely mood in the first third. The film involves a futuristic Earth overrun by pollution to the point that humans have left and robots attempt to clean up by stacking compacted trash as high as skyscrapers. In this future, only one robot is left functioning called a Wall-E. This robot has been active for so long it's developed a personality, collecting junk and keeping a pet cockroach. Wall-E longs for love and contact - he gets his chance with the arrival of an advanced robot called Eve sent from a scout ship to scan the new Earth.
I don't want to give too much away, so I'll skip to what I thought of the movie. In terms of all ages entertainment, Wall-E and the other characters were likable and cute coming across nicely. As is the norm for kids movies, a gaggle of odd ball but well intentioned characters perform heroic feats in the face of danger. The animation continues to progress as more detail is added in the computer graphics to the point that live action actors can be placed in the shot and it doesn't look entirely distracting (some noise is added to those shots to unify the look). Overall, the visuals are impressive but fit seamlessly into the story.
What really made an impact was the willingness to put quiet and melancholy moods into the piece. The first section of the movie reminded me a bit of AI: Artificial Intelligence in terms of the feeling of isolation and detachment (though the playing up of Wall-E as a klutz and friendly robot offset the mood to avoid depression). But the initial set up of the movie gives the proceedings weight even as it hits the more action adventure oriented second half.
Also, there was a bit of social commentary in the movie. The idea of an Earth abandoned due to pollution as a result of over consumption of resources from a conglomerated consumer society is about as fully explored as it can get. And the lazy malaise that follows is given screen time as well.
So when you add it all up, Wall-E succeeds on all levels. Cute kids story, brainy sci-fi, amazing animation. Another gem in the Pixar library.