This review has two spoilers and they are labeled as such in the article.
If that twat Leona Helmsley had seen Wall-E she probably would have left $8 billion to an unkempt robot trash compactor. Or by default Pixar. The nonpareil animation studio’s ninth film is arguably their best, a touchstone for the current culture that will outlive us all and make its way into lonely, lonely space one day strapped beside There Will Be Blood. I’m not overlooking the “contrarians’” views of the film either; Wall-E is definitely a hypocritical vacuum of sorts, vaulting its strong wake up, shape up and save-us-all-from-Wal-Mart message into millions of laps dampened by extra large sodas, fast-food flatulence and sweaty anticipation for an endless sea of Wall-E merch.
As a showcase for the contemporary mating of art, life and entertainment, this film is similar to having Big Brother tell our youngest generations to throw the damn hammer at the screen already. Is Wall-E subversive? Is it progressive? (The ongoing “liberal” argument is for retards). Well, it’s a kid’s movie for the summer. And I know that snarky bloggers are supposed to scoff at breeding, but I empathize with American parents who are forced to tolerate packs of smartass, rapping CGI animals year after year. The notions and visuals in Wall-E must feel like a pinch on the ass to them or a hit from a joint. And while 20something viewers without kids may prefer the “we shat and sat” message of Idiocracy—a film with admittedly similar themes and prophecies—director Andrew Stanton’s mainstream kid’s film still has more to say than all the hipster “artists” in Brooklyn. Go ahead and skewer the Mickey Mouse ears for the 1000th time in the galleries Disney is ahead of you.
Discourse about the film’s importance and message(s) will never eclipse the greatness of its first act—the robot waltz; the many transportive scenes between this forgotten island of a male and a more advanced, cutthroat female (that can fly no less, great). The robots playing these characters are free of Perez baggage (just guessing), so the audience is able to enjoy their courtship and ponder it in a way that’s arguably no longer possible with today’s humanish actors.
Like Paul Thomas Anderson did with TWBB, Stanton lets his film dazzle by ignoring convention out of the gate; Oscar-worthy sound design by Ben Burtt sharpens and buffs our attention, and it all happens sans dialogue; Stanton allows moviegoers the time to patiently reconnect with why we’re in a theater in the first place: to get away and go someplace else. With wars going on, so much marketing hype (to which I play a part, sure), $4 fucking bottled water at the movies, and Blackberry breakups, going someplace else takes longer than it used to. Getting bit smitten by a blockbuster film is exceedingly rare. So when it happens, as it does here, it’s like lucid dreaming, and when you leave Pixar’s realer than real animation, reality feels outdated. You want a pixel squeegee to uncover their signature pearly brilliance on a cigarette butt mashed on the street.
Sort of like love, or a Sam Cooke album, it seems that many viewers don’t want the waltz between Wall-E and EVE to end. Many of us wish to see the two of them roll around on Beach Fantasia and finally become a quixotic quasar with one last shot of metal PDA. Basically: “the fatties took the film down oh so slightly” and kept the film from being a masterpiece. Or the more extreme: “Not only did humans ruin the Earth, their sheer inclusion in the film was a minor kill-joy!”
But I feel that the third act is as strong and vital as the preceding two; it pounds the film’s commentary home like a cool but very smart brat. Directive: we are fat fucks.
One of my favorite scenes is when the fatties slide around helplessly on their intergalactic, Miami-neon cruise ship like boneless hungry hungry hippos. Tipsy with madcap absurdity, the scene’s rude irreverence is further amplified when two of the main fatties swing their arms around in a last ditch effort to save a row of tumbling chubby babies. Cue the female fattie joking to her male crush, “Get ready to have kids!” More than six of ‘em, darlin’. I was waiting for an artificial insemination scene. Humans are rarely portrayed as such a pathetic species on film, and like those chicken-not-a-chickens purportedly bred by KFC, I found myself wanting to bite into these barely sentient humans with a side of mashed potatoes.
Pixar’s decision to interject a live-action Fred Willard into the film as the powerless president of Buy N Large Corp—shown via video feed in contrast to the film’s cartoon humans of the future—is perplexing and ballsy. Far more so than Pixar’s decision to make a film about a chef rat. I’m curious to see how time treats this creative whim. Similar live-action video clips of Hello Dolly are timelessly complimented by Wall-E’s teary awe, but Willard’s character is aimed at the Dubbya Now.
Willard’s presence creates the strange sensation that we’re touring a finished Pixar movie rather than watching one. *Spoiler* The scene where he’s a hostage-like pawn and gives a final sign off has a trippy, surprisingly grim interpretation; it was like something you’d see on Adult Swim (where Willard occasionally pops up). It even recalls the mutating media flickers in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. *End Spoiler* The fact that Wall-E’s visuals can overpower Willard’s adult-aimed jabs of “Attention citizen-shoppers!” is tantamount to Pixar’s rolling stone MO and their need to dare expectation.
As the third act wraps up, the film’s recurring, Apple-inspired icon for “living plant” begins to mirror the blanket-bomb advertising and propaganda of Buy N Large. *Spoiler* The humans are headed back to Earth to farm “pizza plants” on its massive landfills and everything is alright…from a symbolic distance that ends the film on a humorously mild note. *End Spoiler* And while the ubiquitousness of the “living plant” logo drives home the film’s blatant green message to kids, intentionally or not, it also satirizes what the green “movement” is fast becoming: a kind of faceless marketing with shrewder design savvy.
And in this respect, Wall-E is itself a sly pop-art creation, the corporate illusion is complete. But to Pixar’s unwavering credit, as an audience member you still feel a healthy, unified regard for their badass staff and vision so many billions of dollars later. You feel like you’re experiencing ’00s greatness alongside them, and their cultural connection and wow-factor hasn’t been this strong since 1995 and Toy Story. When we look back at 2008, Wall-E will be up there.
Did I mention that this is a really romantic film, and that Wall-E looks exactly like Johnny 5?
- Hunter Stephenson / Slashfilm