Toon Talk: Wall-E
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by Kirby C. Holt
Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios
MPAA Rating: G
Love as a Mostly Robotic Thing
Save for a few romantic subplots here and there, love stories have not exactly been at the forefront in the Pixar feature film canon. The “boys’ club” at the Lamp have been more naturally drawn to the “buddy film” concept more often then not, from Buzz and Woody all the way up to Remy and Linguini. Perhaps being absorbed into the Disney family -- known for their fairy tale “happily ever afters” after all -- has rubbed off on them, for if Pixar’s latest computer animated crowd pleaser WALL-E is anything, it’s a love story.
Told with a gentle hand and a big ol’ heart on its sleeve, WALL-E is yet another homerun for the animation powerhouse, proving yet again that no one (not even their parent company) comes close to creating films in their chosen art form quite like they do these days.
Opening with, of all things, the strains of Michael Crawford belting out “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Jerry Herman’s classic musical Americana Hello, Dolly!, we find ourselves on a futuristic Earth as bleak as any other similarly-set sci-fi flick. Apparently, in this story at least, nobody listened to Al Gore, for our planet has been stripped of its natural resources and overcome by man-made waste. The human population long gone, shipped off into outer space in a cruise ship to the stars by the mega-corporation Buy N Large (the Wal-Mart of the future?), the only inhabitant seemingly left is our hero, WALL-E.
WALL-E (think Johnny 5 crossed with a trash compactor, with a little E.T. thrown in for good measure) is an industrious worker bot who, while tirelessly cleaning up the mess we humans left behind, has developed quite the personality over the years. Innately curious, he collects odd objects that strike his fabricated fancy, including an old VHS tape (remember those?) of the Gene Kelly directed Hello, Dolly! movie; this sparks within his mechanical core a yearning for companionship in the big wide world he was left alone in, a void that his cockroach sidekick (quite indestructible, naturally) can hardly fill.
Literally dropping into his drab daily routine one day is EVE, a sleek probe droid that resembles a floating version of those fancy, new fangled vacuum cleaners you see on TV lately. WALL-E is immediately smitten with his new visitor, even if she at first acts aloof (firing her laser rifle at him doesn’t help either; this babe is packing some serious heat). Nevertheless, WALL-E soon wins her over, especially when he presents to her what she is looking for: evidence of life on Earth.
EVE’s mother ship soon comes to collect her, with WALL-E hitching a ride to save his lady fair. Upon docking with the Axiom, the spaceship that now houses the bloated descendants of the Earthlings who left Mother Earth some 700 years before, EVE and her precious cargo are whisked off to the portly captain, who now faces orders to return all aboard to a home they have never seen, let alone know much about. See, aboard the Axiom, humanity has devolved into a race of literal couch potatoes, floating around on hovercraft lounge chairs, all communication limited to a computer screen floating in front of their faces (sound familiar?). All information is spoon fed to them through the glitzy sheen of Buy N Large’s materialism, every whim catered to by an army of robot valets, maids and hairdressers.